Decision comes on the heels of research showing that 82 percent of clients have lost money
The UK media reported widely Tuesday that Britain's Financial Conduct Authority has announced a crackdown on spread betting using contracts for difference (CFDs) following FCA research that showed 82 percent of clients had lost money in the sector.
The news of tighter controls had a profound impact on stocks of companies within the sector, in some cases sending share prices plummeting by almost 30 percent.
CFDs allow punters to gamble on price movements in financial markets, such as stocks and currencies. It is effectively a wager on which direction a particular asset will move, and it is consequently classed as gambling, where no tax is payable on profits.
However, complex investments are often sold to ordinary investors via the internet, and losses or gains can be much larger than those in traditional trading, with punters able to hold a trading position representing a much higher value than the size of the stake invested.
FCA researchers found that the majority of clients lost money, with average per capita losses around GBP 2,200 a year.
The Authority has published its plans to tighten control and create better awareness among punters; these include:
* Ensuring that providers give clients standardised risk warnings;
* Requiring providers to publish the proportion of winners and losers on their products;
* Capping the proportion of "borrowed" funds that can be used for trading by inexperienced retail clients;
* Prohibiting providers from offering any type of incentives for the opening of trading accounts;
* The introduction of mandatory limits, such as lower leverage limits for inexperienced retail clients, with a maximum of 25-to-1, and capping leverage at a maximum level of 50-to-1 for all retail clients;
The FCA has launched a public consultation exercise which is open for comment until next March.
UK companies prominent in this sector include CMC Markets, Plus 500 and IG Group, all of which suffered significant share price declines on the announcement.
A spokesman for CFD trading provider Plus500 said the FCA's proposals would have a "material operational and financial impact on its UK regulated subsidiary which represents approximately 20 percent of group revenues.
A FCA spokesman said there had been a number of instances of unacceptable conduct by providers in the last six years, including failing to adequately consider if CFDs are appropriate for individual customers, failing to provide adequate risk warnings, and firms offering excessive levels of leverage to retail clients.
Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said: "We are introducing stricter rules for CFD products to ensure the sector addresses the shortcomings identified, and that firms make sure that retail clients are aware of the high risks involved in trading these complex products."
He revealed that the FCA is also monitoring binary bets, another type of financial betting, amid fears that there was insufficient transparency for investors to effectively carry out proper evaluations, raising questions about whether product features are more akin to gambling than investing.
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