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CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 1
Consumer Practices Guidelines1
INTRODUCTION
DATA is a global (501)(c)(6) non-profit organization incorporated in Delaware with
primary bases in Washington DC and London, tasked with leading regulatory, best
practices and consumer protection initiatives for companies in the emerging field of
Digital Assets. Digital Assets include digital, asset-backed and cryptographic
currencies like Bitcoin, along with the emerging ecosystem of payment innovations,
fiscal tools, and P2P products enabled by these new Internet technologies. Members
of DATA include a wide variety of companies and businesses throughout the
ecosystem that offer Digital Asset products and services, as well as companies and
business that serve the Digital Asset community
DATA believes that Digital Assets are the future of global payments, providing an
inexpensive, safe and secure means for payments to be made by both consumers and
businesses. Because we are still in the very early stages of these potentially
revolutionary products, we recognize that our role is unique in laying the foundations
for the growth, development and eventual success of Digital Asset products and
services. There are many important steps that must be taken when establishing new
global currencies. One of the most critical steps is ensuring that consumers and
businesses that use these services and products understand what they are, how
they work and the risks involved with their use. Similarly, companies that offer or
service Digital Assets (“Digital Asset Companies”) must be fully prepared to provide
easy-to-understand, clear and conspicuous, “just in time” disclosures to their
customers regarding all risks, costs, restrictions and limitations arising out of the
purchase and use of Digital Asset products. Our goal in this document is to provide
a high-level summary of Consumer Practices Guidelines for Digital Asset Companies
and their customers.
How to Use These Guidelines
Digital Asset products may differ tremendously based on functionality, customer base,
method of distribution, source and nature of the currency, custody of funds, and other
potential distinguishing features. That is why it is important for these Guidelines to
1
These guidelines do not necessarily express the views of every member of DATA nor necessarily apply to every
types of product or service. Companies should consult their own legal counsel for definitive advice on consumer
protection issues applicable to specific products and services.
CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 2
recognize the need for flexibility in the approach to consumer protection issues –
particularly with respect to disclosures.
DATA also recognizes that for any business to succeed, there must be a win-win between business
owners and customers. Business owners must make a reasonable profit in order for their business
to thrive, and customers must receive the fair benefit of their bargain when purchasing or product or
service.
While DATA encourages its Members to adapt these Guidelines to the specifics of their
products and services, we expect them to adhere to these basic principles:
● Overall fair dealing and ethical treatment of customers, both consumers
and businesses
● Full transparency regarding risks, fees, limitations
● Compliance with all applicable laws and regulations
● Cooperation with law enforcement and avoidance of illegal and illicit
financing activities
● Strong internal controls, encryption, safe storage, regular independent
audits, and other state-of-the art security practices to protect customers’
data, privacy, and funds.
******
GUIDELINES FOR DIRECT SALE AND/OR EXCHANGE OF DIGITAL ASSETS
Recommendations
1. DATA recommends customers, both consumers and businesses, be fully
informed about Digital Assets, what they are and how they work. We encourage
the dissemination of easy to understand communications regarding Digital Asset
products, including the FAQs, attached hereto as Schedule A.
2. DATA recommends clear and conspicuous disclosures of costs, risks, and
limitations that a consumer or business will need to know before acquiring,
obtaining or using Digital Assets.
3. DATA recommends that whenever possible, consumers should receive certain
specific “critical” disclosures on a real-time basis, immediately prior to the time
that a transaction occurs; consumers should also have the ability to cancel the
CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 3
transaction for any reason, prior to the consummation of the transaction, without
penalty or cost.
4. DATA recommends fair and transparent terms for users, consumers and
businesses.
Purchase and Use Disclosures
• Contact number and/or website for information and customer service
A website with information about the products and a telephone number or
email where customer support can be obtained.
• Full name and address of selling exchange or merchant responsible for
the transaction.
If licensed, where the entity is licensed.
• All fees payable or due for the transaction
All possible fees should be disclosed prior to purchase or use and should be
easily available to the public at any time via websites or mobile applications.
Procedures for cancelling or reversing a transaction, if applicable.
Full disclosures should be provided in advance if the transaction is final and
cannot be cancelled or reversed.
Sample Risk Disclosures
Below are basic risk disclosures that put consumers and businesses on notice about
the unique attributes of Digital Assets. These disclosures would particularly be relevant
for transactions involving the direct purchase of Digital Assets for investment or future
spending purposes. We firmly believe that well-informed consumers and businesses
can make their own decision on when and how to purchase or use Digital Assets.
Risk Disclosures should include guidance similar to the following:
● The price and value of Digital Assets is volatile and may change on a
daily or even hourly basis.
The price of Digital Assets is set by supply and demand. Because the
ecosystem for these technologies is still growing, the perceived value of this
market, and therefore the actual price of individual units of value thereof, is
CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 4
still subject to significant ups and downs. While every transaction that occurs
on the Bitcoin network are secured by the same state-of-the-art encryption
methods used by governments and defense agencies and have yet to be
broken, consumer transactions conducted via third party services may be
delayed due to unanticipated security breaches, third party error, interbank
delays in transfer of funds, or other error. It is important that consumers
understand that through no fault of his or her own, fluctuations in price could
significantly and rapidly impact the value of transactions conducted on
emerging cryptographic technology protocols such as Bitcoin.
● Consumers who hold and transact in Digital Assets can lose all their
money.
Consumers who hold Digital Assets should recognize that, depending on
who, how and where such Digital Assets are maintained, (e.g., licensed and
supervised financial institution, application of depository insurance, cold
storage or multisignature wallets) there are complex legal and security
vulnerabilities and the potential of a data breach that might result in a loss of
all their money.
Because many Digital Asset Companies are entrepreneurial and fast-
evolving, they may not have personnel, processing systems, adequate
security practices, or internal controls that one might expect of more
established firms.
Consumers are strongly advised to educate themselves about these
emerging products and services before engaging in such transactions, which
are irreversible even by government and judicial bodies.
● Digital Assets are taxable and regulated in many jurisdictions.
Even if a Digital Currency Company does not provide tax-specific information
or reports, the consumer is likely liable for payment of taxes in jurisdictions
applicable to him or her. The United States and the EU are among several
bodies to issue preliminary guidance regarding taxation of digital currency
transactions.
● All transactional information on the blockchain is public.
The blockchain is a public record of all transactions occurring on the Bitcoin
network and may disclose potentially sensitive information about an
CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 5
individual consumer, information that is available on the Internet for any
member of the public for all time.
While all transactions on the blockchain are recorded using a pseudo
anonymous wallet address (also referred to as the “public key”) rather than
real names or personally identifiable information, third parties may ascertain
and piece together private information such as account balance,
transactions between the wallet owner and third parties, and other sensitive
information based on the detailed, public transaction history.
● Consumers are strongly advised do due diligence on companies with
which they do business.
Not all business models are the same nor pose the same risks. For example,
a business that holds the private key pose different risks to the consumer
than a business that requires the end user to hold the private key. The
former poses a high burden on the company to hold the privacy keys
securely, while the latter puts poses a high burden on the consumer to hold
his or her private key securely.
Further, jurisdiction-specific licensing and registration requirements may
apply to one company but not another, based on the flow of data or funds
through their products and services. Please refer to resources on
datauthority.org (“AML Guidelines”) for a partial list of financial regulators in
specific jurisdictions around the world that may apply to Digital Asset
Companies.
● Digital Assets are not yet legal tender in most jurisdictions.
Digital Assets can be used to make a wide variety of purchases for good and
services and global payments to individuals and businesses, but they are not
accepted everywhere.
● Digital Asset transactions are final when complete, and cannot be
reversed by a third party or government authority
Unlike certain regulated banking payment products such as credit or debit
cards, Digital Asset transactions are final when complete, and cannot be
reversed by a third party or government authority, even if the consumer’s
purchase is defective, or even if the consumer is the victim of fraud or other
unauthorized or illicit activity.
CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 6
In general, the same legal remedies for errors, fraud, defective purchases,
etc. are available to consumers who pay with Digital Assets as those who
pay with cash.
GUIDELINES FOR SALE AND MARKETING OF PRODUCTS USING BLOCK CHAIN
TECHNOLOGY BUT NOT INVOLVING A DIRECT SALE OF DIGITAL ASSETS
There is an increasing number of products and services being launched that use block
chain technology, but without a direct purchase of Digital Assets by the consumer or
customer.
Recommendations
1. Although there is not a direct purchase of Digital Assets for such products,
DATA recommends that customers, both consumers and businesses, be fully
informed about the use of Digital Assets in providing the product or service.
2. As with other Digital Asset purchases, DATA recommends clear and
conspicuous disclosures of costs, risks, and limitations that a consumer or
business will need to know before acquiring, obtaining or using a product or
service that relies on Digital Assets and/or block chain technology for
completion of the transaction.
****
DATA recognizes that these Guidelines must be reiterative, flexible and regularly
adapted to changes in laws and regulations as well as developments in the market
place.

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DATA Working Group - Consumer Best Practices

  • 1. CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 1 Consumer Practices Guidelines1 INTRODUCTION DATA is a global (501)(c)(6) non-profit organization incorporated in Delaware with primary bases in Washington DC and London, tasked with leading regulatory, best practices and consumer protection initiatives for companies in the emerging field of Digital Assets. Digital Assets include digital, asset-backed and cryptographic currencies like Bitcoin, along with the emerging ecosystem of payment innovations, fiscal tools, and P2P products enabled by these new Internet technologies. Members of DATA include a wide variety of companies and businesses throughout the ecosystem that offer Digital Asset products and services, as well as companies and business that serve the Digital Asset community DATA believes that Digital Assets are the future of global payments, providing an inexpensive, safe and secure means for payments to be made by both consumers and businesses. Because we are still in the very early stages of these potentially revolutionary products, we recognize that our role is unique in laying the foundations for the growth, development and eventual success of Digital Asset products and services. There are many important steps that must be taken when establishing new global currencies. One of the most critical steps is ensuring that consumers and businesses that use these services and products understand what they are, how they work and the risks involved with their use. Similarly, companies that offer or service Digital Assets (“Digital Asset Companies”) must be fully prepared to provide easy-to-understand, clear and conspicuous, “just in time” disclosures to their customers regarding all risks, costs, restrictions and limitations arising out of the purchase and use of Digital Asset products. Our goal in this document is to provide a high-level summary of Consumer Practices Guidelines for Digital Asset Companies and their customers. How to Use These Guidelines Digital Asset products may differ tremendously based on functionality, customer base, method of distribution, source and nature of the currency, custody of funds, and other potential distinguishing features. That is why it is important for these Guidelines to 1 These guidelines do not necessarily express the views of every member of DATA nor necessarily apply to every types of product or service. Companies should consult their own legal counsel for definitive advice on consumer protection issues applicable to specific products and services.
  • 2. CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 2 recognize the need for flexibility in the approach to consumer protection issues – particularly with respect to disclosures. DATA also recognizes that for any business to succeed, there must be a win-win between business owners and customers. Business owners must make a reasonable profit in order for their business to thrive, and customers must receive the fair benefit of their bargain when purchasing or product or service. While DATA encourages its Members to adapt these Guidelines to the specifics of their products and services, we expect them to adhere to these basic principles: ● Overall fair dealing and ethical treatment of customers, both consumers and businesses ● Full transparency regarding risks, fees, limitations ● Compliance with all applicable laws and regulations ● Cooperation with law enforcement and avoidance of illegal and illicit financing activities ● Strong internal controls, encryption, safe storage, regular independent audits, and other state-of-the art security practices to protect customers’ data, privacy, and funds. ****** GUIDELINES FOR DIRECT SALE AND/OR EXCHANGE OF DIGITAL ASSETS Recommendations 1. DATA recommends customers, both consumers and businesses, be fully informed about Digital Assets, what they are and how they work. We encourage the dissemination of easy to understand communications regarding Digital Asset products, including the FAQs, attached hereto as Schedule A. 2. DATA recommends clear and conspicuous disclosures of costs, risks, and limitations that a consumer or business will need to know before acquiring, obtaining or using Digital Assets. 3. DATA recommends that whenever possible, consumers should receive certain specific “critical” disclosures on a real-time basis, immediately prior to the time that a transaction occurs; consumers should also have the ability to cancel the
  • 3. CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 3 transaction for any reason, prior to the consummation of the transaction, without penalty or cost. 4. DATA recommends fair and transparent terms for users, consumers and businesses. Purchase and Use Disclosures • Contact number and/or website for information and customer service A website with information about the products and a telephone number or email where customer support can be obtained. • Full name and address of selling exchange or merchant responsible for the transaction. If licensed, where the entity is licensed. • All fees payable or due for the transaction All possible fees should be disclosed prior to purchase or use and should be easily available to the public at any time via websites or mobile applications. Procedures for cancelling or reversing a transaction, if applicable. Full disclosures should be provided in advance if the transaction is final and cannot be cancelled or reversed. Sample Risk Disclosures Below are basic risk disclosures that put consumers and businesses on notice about the unique attributes of Digital Assets. These disclosures would particularly be relevant for transactions involving the direct purchase of Digital Assets for investment or future spending purposes. We firmly believe that well-informed consumers and businesses can make their own decision on when and how to purchase or use Digital Assets. Risk Disclosures should include guidance similar to the following: ● The price and value of Digital Assets is volatile and may change on a daily or even hourly basis. The price of Digital Assets is set by supply and demand. Because the ecosystem for these technologies is still growing, the perceived value of this market, and therefore the actual price of individual units of value thereof, is
  • 4. CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 4 still subject to significant ups and downs. While every transaction that occurs on the Bitcoin network are secured by the same state-of-the-art encryption methods used by governments and defense agencies and have yet to be broken, consumer transactions conducted via third party services may be delayed due to unanticipated security breaches, third party error, interbank delays in transfer of funds, or other error. It is important that consumers understand that through no fault of his or her own, fluctuations in price could significantly and rapidly impact the value of transactions conducted on emerging cryptographic technology protocols such as Bitcoin. ● Consumers who hold and transact in Digital Assets can lose all their money. Consumers who hold Digital Assets should recognize that, depending on who, how and where such Digital Assets are maintained, (e.g., licensed and supervised financial institution, application of depository insurance, cold storage or multisignature wallets) there are complex legal and security vulnerabilities and the potential of a data breach that might result in a loss of all their money. Because many Digital Asset Companies are entrepreneurial and fast- evolving, they may not have personnel, processing systems, adequate security practices, or internal controls that one might expect of more established firms. Consumers are strongly advised to educate themselves about these emerging products and services before engaging in such transactions, which are irreversible even by government and judicial bodies. ● Digital Assets are taxable and regulated in many jurisdictions. Even if a Digital Currency Company does not provide tax-specific information or reports, the consumer is likely liable for payment of taxes in jurisdictions applicable to him or her. The United States and the EU are among several bodies to issue preliminary guidance regarding taxation of digital currency transactions. ● All transactional information on the blockchain is public. The blockchain is a public record of all transactions occurring on the Bitcoin network and may disclose potentially sensitive information about an
  • 5. CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 5 individual consumer, information that is available on the Internet for any member of the public for all time. While all transactions on the blockchain are recorded using a pseudo anonymous wallet address (also referred to as the “public key”) rather than real names or personally identifiable information, third parties may ascertain and piece together private information such as account balance, transactions between the wallet owner and third parties, and other sensitive information based on the detailed, public transaction history. ● Consumers are strongly advised do due diligence on companies with which they do business. Not all business models are the same nor pose the same risks. For example, a business that holds the private key pose different risks to the consumer than a business that requires the end user to hold the private key. The former poses a high burden on the company to hold the privacy keys securely, while the latter puts poses a high burden on the consumer to hold his or her private key securely. Further, jurisdiction-specific licensing and registration requirements may apply to one company but not another, based on the flow of data or funds through their products and services. Please refer to resources on datauthority.org (“AML Guidelines”) for a partial list of financial regulators in specific jurisdictions around the world that may apply to Digital Asset Companies. ● Digital Assets are not yet legal tender in most jurisdictions. Digital Assets can be used to make a wide variety of purchases for good and services and global payments to individuals and businesses, but they are not accepted everywhere. ● Digital Asset transactions are final when complete, and cannot be reversed by a third party or government authority Unlike certain regulated banking payment products such as credit or debit cards, Digital Asset transactions are final when complete, and cannot be reversed by a third party or government authority, even if the consumer’s purchase is defective, or even if the consumer is the victim of fraud or other unauthorized or illicit activity.
  • 6. CONSUMER PRACTICES WORKING COMMITTEE GUIDELINES 6 In general, the same legal remedies for errors, fraud, defective purchases, etc. are available to consumers who pay with Digital Assets as those who pay with cash. GUIDELINES FOR SALE AND MARKETING OF PRODUCTS USING BLOCK CHAIN TECHNOLOGY BUT NOT INVOLVING A DIRECT SALE OF DIGITAL ASSETS There is an increasing number of products and services being launched that use block chain technology, but without a direct purchase of Digital Assets by the consumer or customer. Recommendations 1. Although there is not a direct purchase of Digital Assets for such products, DATA recommends that customers, both consumers and businesses, be fully informed about the use of Digital Assets in providing the product or service. 2. As with other Digital Asset purchases, DATA recommends clear and conspicuous disclosures of costs, risks, and limitations that a consumer or business will need to know before acquiring, obtaining or using a product or service that relies on Digital Assets and/or block chain technology for completion of the transaction. **** DATA recognizes that these Guidelines must be reiterative, flexible and regularly adapted to changes in laws and regulations as well as developments in the market place.