Astrea / News / A new step towards a regulated virtual currency...


A new step towards a regulated virtual currency market? FSMA publishes new rules on the advertisement of virtual currencies.

Publications | Dieter Veestraeten & Thomas Charon

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet,
consetetur sadipscing elitr,
sed diam nonumy eirmod
tempor invidunt ut labore et

On 17 March 2023, the Royal Decree of 5 January 2023 was published in the Belgian Official Gazette, approving the regulation of the Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) on the introduction of a set of restrictive conditions on the commercialisation of virtual currencies to consumers. Some key takeaways are (i) the requirement of accurate and non-misleading information in advertisements, (ii) the mandatory inclusion of risk warnings and (iii) the prior notification of mass media campaigns to the FSMA.

A 'virtual currency’ is defined as a digital representation of a value that is neither issued or guaranteed by a central bank or public authority, nor necessarily linked to a legally issued currency and does not have the legal status of a currency or money, but which is accepted by natural or legal persons as a means of exchange and can be transferred, stored and traded electronically. Only those virtual assets that function as a means of exchange or payment are within scope. Assets with only an investment function (such as ‘security tokens’, which for instance, confer rights to a form of participation in an undertaking) or with only a utility function (such as ‘utility tokens’, which confer rights to future products or services) are excluded.

As the Royal Decree and the FSMA only target the commercialisation of virtual currencies in Belgium, the regulatory scope is limited to advertisements disseminated to consumers in return for a fee within the Belgian territory.

With respect to the objective to provide adequate information to consumers who wish to participate in the virtual currency market, the FSMA advocated for a strict regulation on the accuracy and non-misleading nature of virtual currency-advertising. In that regard, the Royal Decree introduces, inter alia, a prohibition on ‘advertisements which emphasize the possible advantages of the virtual currency without also giving a correct, clear and balanced indication of the risks, limitations or conditions associated with the virtual currency in question’. It also includes an obligation to present the information in non-technical terms so that it can be understood by the average consumer.

As a second ‘pillar’, the FSMA tries to tackle the unknown risks related to virtual currencies for consumers, by establishing a framework of mandatory warnings. For example, each advertisement must now contain the statement “Virtual currencies, real risks. The only guarantee in crypto is the risk" and a set of pre-described warnings, presented in a legible, visible and understandable manner at the beginning of each advertisement.

Finally, the Royal Decree pays special attention to mass media campaigns, to be understood as each communication with the specific purpose to promote the purchase or subscription of one or more virtual coins to at least 25.000 consumers. If the same advertisement is disseminated via multiple channels, the number of consumers reached via the various channels are to be added up. The FSMA preserves its right of supervision, prescribing a mandatory notification by an advertiser at least 10 days before the distribution in Belgium, clarifying how and on what date the advertisement will be disseminated.

It is clear that the FSMA and the Belgian legislator have taken an important step towards a more transparent and safe virtual currency market. The new FSMA regulation will enter into force as from 17 May 2023.

If you have any questions or want more information on the regulatory framework of virtual currencies, please do not hesitate to contact Dieter Veestraeten (