FCA places consumer protection at the heart of crowdfunding

 

FCA logoPeople looking to lend money or invest through crowdfunding will be better protected under new rules confirmed today by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

By boosting consumer protection, the rules will help ensure that consumers have access to fair, clear information that is not misleading, when using loan-based, or securities-based crowdfunding platforms.

Christopher Woolard, director of policy, risk and research at the FCA, said:

“We want to ensure that consumers are appropriately protected – but not prevented from investing.

“We have been careful to listen to feedback from the market and the rules provide consumer protection, whilst allowing businesses to continue to have access to this innovative method of funding.”

The crowdfunding market is small, but growing rapidly. Securities-based crowdfunding, which the FCA already regulates, allows people to buy shares or debt securities in a company. Last year £28m was raised for growing businesses, an increase of around 600 per cent compared to 2012.

Loan-based crowdfunding (mainly peer-to-peer (P2P) lending), which will be regulated by the FCA from April 2014, saw £480m lent by consumers to individuals and businesses in 2013, a rise of around 150 per cent on the previous year.

The FCA consulted on its proposed rules in October 2013.  The majority of feedback was positive and supported the FCA’s consumer-oriented approach.

More detail on the FCA’s rules on crowdfunding

The rules on loan-based crowdfunding focus on ensuring that consumers interested in lending to individuals or businesses have access to clear information, which allows them to assess the risk and to understand who will ultimately borrow the money.

The rules also require firms running the loan-based platforms to have plans in place so that loan repayments continue to be collected even if the online platform gets into difficulties. Also, new prudential regulations will be introduced over time so that these firms have capital to help withstand financial shocks. This is important as consumers who lend money through these firms will not be able to claim through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Consumer protection is at the fore of the FCA’s approach to security-based crowdfunding, whilst ensuring that those wishing to invest can do so, and small and growing business still have access to this form of funding.

The new rules for securities-based crowdfunding keep the crowd in crowdfunding by allowing anyone to invest up to 10 per cent of their available assets; while those who take advice or have the relevant knowledge and experience can invest more.

The security-based crowdfunding rules also apply to of equity and debt securities such as mini-bonds, which are difficult to cash in.

The new rules will provide the same level of protection to investors whether they engage with firms online, or offline as a result of the direct marketing or telephone selling.

James Meekings, co-founder of Funding Circle said:

“The introduction of proportionate regulation will be a step-change for the industry and will cement our position within the wider financial landscape. The FCA has shown foresight in striking the balance between enabling the industry to continue to flourish while ensuring the protection of investors and borrowers.

“Peer-to-peer lending is now a £1billion industry and it is predicted to grow to over £12billion per year within the next decade. Funding Circle alone is currently facilitating £20million of loans every month so it’s only right that a industry of this size becomes regulated, giving consumers even more confidence that peer-to-peer lending is here to stay.”

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