Terminological confusion impeding crypto regulation

Lack of standard terminology for cryptoassets hampers global regulatory response says a new Cambridge University report.


The lack of a standard terminology for cryptoassets and the blockchain industry across jurisdictions hampers the development of a coordinated regulatory response, according to the first global comparative study of cryptoasset regulation by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) at University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

‘Major impediment’

The lack of such common terminology is a “major impediment” to clear policies in this area, says the Global Cryptoasset Regulatory Landscape Study, conducted with the support of the Nomura Research Institute (NRI).  The report states “A variety of terms are used, often interchangeably and without a clear definition.” Even the term “cryptoasset” can have different meanings depending on context, so regulators face several issues including ensuring that terminology is used consistently in official statements. As a result of lacking consensus around terminology, the scope of different regulatory authorities often overlaps: the study finds that on average three distinct national regulatory bodies per jurisdiction have issued official statements on cryptoassets, including warnings. The CCAF report is based on an in-depth analysis of 23 jurisdictions, providing a comprehensive analysis that contrasts various regulatory approaches in order to shed light on regulatory challenges and opportunities.

Consistent approach

Michel Rauchs, cryptocurrency and blockchain lead at CCAF, said “this first comparative global report on cryptoasset and blockchain regulation is an important practical and analytic tool for regulators, market participants and other stakeholders in this emerging sector.” Apolline Blandin, CCAF research assistant on cryptoasset and blockchain technology and project lead, explained “by conceptualising the key dimensions of cryptoassets and their regulation, the report can help develop a more consistent approach across regulators.” The report also found that the most sophisticated regulatory frameworks are found in countries with a less rigid attitude towards financial regulation and a low level of domestic cryptoasset activity. Regulators have primarily focused their attention on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and exchange trading, functions that resemble well-understood activities in traditional financial markets.

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