The Ontario Securities Commission said Friday it is gathering information on several cryptocurrency trading platforms after it received a number of complaints.
The regulator said cryptocurrency exchanges, where the digital tokens are bought and sold, may fall afoul of securities laws.
“We are aware of several cryptocurrency trading platforms operating in Ontario and are gathering information about their activities. To date, none have been recognized as an exchange, or exempted from recognition,” said Kristen Rose, spokesperson for the commission, in an email.
Rose explained that platforms that offer this type of trading may classify as a marketplace, and would be required to comply with the rules governing exchanges or alternative trading systems.
“If an exchange is doing business in a jurisdiction of Canada, it must apply to that jurisdiction’s securities regulatory authority for recognition or an exemption from recognition.”
The move by the Ontario regulator comes amid the rise of exchanges to trade digital currencies, as well as initial coin offerings to launch new ones. While the original bitcoin cryptocurrency is nearly a decade old, the sharp rise in prices for the new currencies last year created a flurry of interest and start-ups to serve the new market.
Both the exchanges and initial coin offerings have been operating in a grey area as regulators look to define which securities laws and regulations apply to the new offerings.
The decentralized nature of the currencies, and uncertainty over regulations, have raised worries about possible financial scams.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been investigating a number of cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings and has already cracked down on several.
In February, the SEC charged former exchange BitFunder with fraud for operating unlawfully as an unregistered securities exchange. The regulator said any platform that engages in the activity of a national securities exchange must register, whether the activity involves digital assets, tokens, or coins.
The U.S. regulator said at the time that it continues to focus on these types of platforms to protect investors and ensure compliance with securities laws.
Earlier this week, Australia released new regulations for cryptocurrency exchanges that require all exchange platforms to register and comply with anti-money laundering regulations or face criminal offence and civil penalty consequences.