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Crowdfunding Sites Face Stricter Controls in U.K.

New rules set to be in place in April

LONDON — Tighter rules governing crowd-funding platforms have been drafted in the U.K., which could hit indie pic financing.

U.K. financial regulator the Financial Conduct Authority has proposed a new regulatory regime for the platforms, which it intends to introduce in April.

It is proposed that a company operating a loan-based crowdfunding platform will need to be authorized to do so by the FCA, and so will incur extra expense and become subject to a significant number of new rules.

The changes will also hit platforms that use the investment model. The promotion of unlisted shares or debt securities will be tightly controlled. They will only be able to be offered to clients who: are certified sophisticated investors or high net worth investors; who confirm that they will receive regulated investment advice or investment management services from an FCA-authorized person; and who certify that they will not invest more than 10% of their net investible portfolio in unlisted shares or unlisted debt securities.

The new rules will also require operators of platforms to assess the suitability of investors who have not been provided with advice.

Law firm Harbottle & Lewis said Monday that if the draft rules are implemented, the need for loan-based crowdfunding platforms to be authorized by the FCA “will unavoidably increase the barriers to the market-place for operators and may mean that a number of the existing operators are not able to bear the increased costs of regulatory compliance. The changes will, however, mean that the ‘crowd’ is better protected from platforms that fail.”

The firm added: “The proposed rules that apply to investment-based platforms increase the regulatory burden on operators who will now be required to carry out more careful checks on those that invest through their platform. From the crowd’s perspective, these rules will have the effect of making the process of investing more cumbersome and will restrict access to some.”

The proposed rule changes will not impact platforms that follow the donation or reward model of crowdfunding, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. In these the crowd gives money to a company whose project or activities it wants to support, often in exchange for a reward, service or product.

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