In a clear sign of the rapid growth and evolving nature of the crypto industry in France, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) ombudsman has reported a significant increase in mediation requests related to digital assets. An ombudsman is an official appointed by the government or an organization to act as an independent and impartial advocate for individuals or groups who may have complaints or grievances.
The recently released 2022 annual report by the AMF highlights the challenges faced by the French stock market regulator as it grapples with the rising number of registered digital asset service providers (DASPs) and seeks to ensure investor protection and market integrity.
According to the report, the total number of cases received by the AMF ombudsman decreased slightly from 1,964 in 2021 to 1,900 in 2022. However, within this overall trend, mediation requests specifically related to digital assets saw a notable rise, climbing from 44 to 54 cases. Furthermore, the number of admissible cases within this category increased from six to 17. This surge in mediation requests suggests that investors are encountering challenges and seeking assistance in navigating the complexities of the crypto market.
Coinciding with the surge in mediation requests, the number of registered DASPs more than doubled in the same time period, soaring from 28 to 59. These providers are required to be registered with the AMF to carry out various activities, such as providing custody for third parties, buying or selling digital assets for legal tender, trading digital assets for other digital assets, or operating a digital assets trading platform in France.
The AMF’s decision to dedicate a section of its annual report to digital assets for the first time underscores the increasing importance of this sector. However, the report also points out that the AMF ombudsman’s jurisdiction is limited to cases involving registered DASPs or those where the AMF has provided optional approval, such as in the case of initial coin offerings. This distinction highlights the need for robust regulation and oversight within the crypto market to safeguard investor interests.
To address the growing challenges in the sector, the AMF plans to tighten DASP registration requirements in July, with the aim of enhancing investor protection and ensuring compliance. Additionally, the European Union’s forthcoming Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) legislation is expected to supersede the current registration framework, providing a unified regulatory approach across member states.
The report also sheds light on common issues encountered by investors, such as misunderstandings surrounding the terms of staking. These findings emphasize the importance of educating market participants about the risks and intricacies of digital asset investments, enabling them to make informed decisions and mitigate potential disputes.
As France’s crypto sector continues to expand, the surge in mediation requests and the proliferation of DASPs reflect the sector’s growing pains. Striking a delicate balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding investor interests remains a priority for regulators. The AMF’s efforts to strengthen regulations and align with upcoming EU legislation demonstrate the commitment to fostering a secure and transparent crypto market in France.