European Authority agrees to prohibit CFDs and binary options to retail investors
The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has agreed on measures on the provision of contracts for differences (CFDs) and binary options to retail investors in the European Union (EU).
The agreed measures include:
- Binary Options – a prohibition on the marketing, distribution or sale of binary options to retail investors; and
- Contracts for Differences – a restriction on the marketing, distribution or sale of CFDs to retail investors. This restriction consists of: leverage limits on opening positions; a margin close out rule on a per account basis; a negative balance protection on a per account basis; preventing the use of incentives by a CFD provider; and a firm specific risk warning delivered in a standardised way.
In accordance with MiFIR, ESMA can only introduce temporary intervention measures on a three monthly basis. Before the end of the three months, ESMA will consider the need to extend the intervention measures for a further three months.
ESMA, along with National Competent Authorities (NCAs), concluded that there exists a significant investor protection concern in relation to CFDs and binary options offered to retail investors. This is due to their complexity and lack of transparency; the particular features of CFDs – excessive leverage – and binary options – structural expected negative return and embedded conflict of interest between providers and their clients; the disparity between the expected return and the risk of loss; and issues related to their marketing and distribution.
NCAs’ analyses on CFD trading across different EU jurisdictions shows that 74-89% of retail accounts typically lose money on their investments, with average losses per client ranging from €1,600 to €29,000. NCAs’ analyses for binary options also found consistent losses on retail clients’ accounts.