Are Binary Options Legal in the United Kingdom?

Please Note: This article is out of date and the legal situation in United Kingdom may have changed.  We hope to revisit and update this article shortly with more current information.

With the tremendous growth of the World Wide Web in the past decades, online trading has not only become a viable option but also a very profitable one. The world of trading saw a major movement towards digital platforms in recent years, which has made it possible for binary options brokers to start offering services across the globe. The online trading of binary options has become a way to make quick returns in the comforts of one’s home and brokers are thriving on the back of this success as more traders are looking to get involved in this type of trade.

Binary options are a highly sought after investment method in the United Kingdom. In fact, the UK was one of the first countries in Europe to finally address the legalization of financial betting. Since the UK was one of the first countries to get involved in the regulation of Forex trading in the past, it was only natural that it would also be proactive when binary options surfaced. UK investors are constantly searching for ways to gain additional income, and with the markets’ current volatility and the lingering financial recession throughout Europe, trading binary options has become an attractive way due to its simplicity, high profitability, and 24-hour trading online access.

Legality

With any financial investment, traders are concerned about conducting legal transactions and ensuring that their invested dollars are handled safely. Since trading binary options occurs online, a completely new set of challenges and risks arise from a safety standpoint. However, investors from the UK can rest assured in knowing that binary options are legal to trade within the country. No regulatory body is currently limiting which brokers traders are allowed to sign up with, which means that they can choose to trade with UK brokers or others from across the world.

The laws pertaining to binary options in the UK are very similar to other laws on financial betting across the European Union. As such, there are no concerns over legal issues but rather licensing issues with brokers who may not be regulated by any financial authority body.

Regulations

Regulation is one of the very few tools traders have to know if they choose to invest with a safe and fair broker. It serves a very specific purpose, which is that of companies operating within the binary options market having to offer honest dealings to consumers. With regulation, traders’ money is kept in segregated accounts, which protects it from possible fraud. Regulatory agencies ensure that everyone conducts business according to a specific set of rules and anyone diverting from that is normally subject to sanctions.

In the UK, there are a few agencies in charge of regulating financial betting. All agencies work in conjunction with each other to keep a close eye on the online trading market and brokers’ activity. Prior to April 2013, the UK had the Financial Services Authority (FSA) but the organization was disbanded as the government created two other authorities.

Originally, the FSA’s mandate was to create and enforce regulations for the binary options industry. Now, this role has been transferred to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Financial Policy Committee (FPC).

The FCA is in charge of developing new regulations and guidelines that are to be followed by all binary options brokers operating with the UK. In return, the FPC is tasked with ensuring that all binary options brokers licensed to operate in the UK are compliant with all rules and regulations.

The splitting of the FSA into two distinct agencies has worked favorably for the binary options market and investors as it allows for more transparent regulating of the industry. The UK government thought that by having two separate entities, the UK financial service market would improve and better serve its consumers.

Licensing

Two types of licensed binary options brokers operate within the country. The first group of brokers operates under a license issued by UK authorities, while the second group has licenses obtained from another European country. The difference between the two types of license is minimal. In fact, since both licenses fall under European Union laws and rules, either license is valid.

Since the laws and regulations pertaining to binary options within the UK and Europe (on a larger scale) are clear and strict, any broker that operates without a license should be viewed with a suspicious eye. Unlicensed brokers attempting to recruit UK traders are most likely a scam.

With the wide range of licensed brokers available in the UK, traders should have no trouble finding a legitimate and well-established brokerage firm to start trading binary options.

Governing bodies

As mentioned above, the FSA no longer exists since April 2013. However, traders from the UK now have even more options when it comes to resources about binary options. Although trading binary options is relatively simple, it is normal to have questions about the rules, brokers, and legislations from time to time. As an investor, you should not be shy about contacting the following agencies as they are in place to help protect you and are always happy to answer questions.

Financial Conduct Authority

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) aims to get consumers to participate in financial markets across the UK with confidence and trust in the products and brokers with whom they engage. FCA regulates brokers, firms, and financial advisors to ensure markets are stable. Transparency is an important mandate of the FCA and as such, fair and easy to understand pricing has been the focus of intervention in recent months.

With consumers’ protection and proper competition of various financial services providers in mind, the FCA establishes rules, investigates, and enforces its power on an as-needed basis.

In regards to regulation, the FCA is responsible for the conduct of over 25,000 financial firms across the UK. In addition, it also regulates the prudential standards of approximately 23,000 of the firms. The FCA also takes protecting the consumers to heart and regularly puts forward strict rules in order to prevent traders becoming victims of scams or other unfair practices.

Prudential Regulation Authority

The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) was created in 2012 by the Financial Services Act. Its mandate pertains to the prudential regulation and supervision of various institutions. The PRA regulates over 1,500 firms and works according to two statutory objectives, which are to promote the safety and credibility of all firms the agency is supervising, and to provide an appropriate level of protection for policyholders.

It only takes one major mistake from a financial firm to cause significant harm to the stability of the UK system, therefore, the PRA is diligent about maintaining healthy, strong, and very successful financial markets.

The PRA maintains close ties with the FCA, which makes for a unique regulatory structure in the UK. Unlike the PRA, the FCA is not part of the Bank of England; however, it operates the prudential regulation of financial firms not covered by PRA. These include asset managers and other independent advisors.

Financial Policy Committee

The Financial Policy Committee (FPC) was created as a result of the reform brought forward by the Financial Services Act 2012. The aim was to ensure greater financial stability across UK financial markets. As it was the case with the FCA, the FPC was created in April 2013 to evaluate and manage systemic risks present within the UK financial systems. The overall objective is to achieve better consumer protection and the FPC’s secondary objective relates to supporting economic policies established by the government.

Broker selection

Traders in the UK have many options when it comes to broker selection. Since licensed brokers operate under stringent rules, traders can be confident that registering with any licensed firm should provide them with a good trading experience. Choosing a broker is a highly personal choice and there are some factors to take into consideration prior to making a decision.

1. Research

With so much information available on the web, any well-established brokerage firm will have customer testimonials and other independent customer reviews available. By reading what others have to say, traders can gage how their experience may be should they choose to sign up with a particular broker.

2. Reading the fine print

While a tedious task, reading the fine print and going over all of the terms and conditions of a broker is the only way traders can know exactly what they are getting into. This information is generally available on the broker’s website and should be fairly accessible and easy to understand. If questions remain, traders should contact the broker directly.

3. Know where your money is going

Brokers sometimes require certain fees prior to trading and others upon withdrawal requests. It is best to inquire about such fees prior to registration to avoid surprises in the end.

 Assets

Brokers within the UK are some of the best known worldwide and as such, they offer a wide range of assets for consumers to trade. Traders interested in brokers with large portfolios will not be disappointed.

All major brokerage firms offer assets within these four categories:

1. Indices

These include the S&P500, NASDAQ-100, Dow Jones, FTSE 100, CAC 40, and the DAX 30.

 2. Commodities

Most binary options websites offer trading on future options of commodities such as oil and gold. Commodities are appealing to traders due to the nature of what affects their prices. For example, changes in supply and demand or any major geopolitical event may influence a commodity’s price. Traders who are keen on learning about and staying informed about what goes on in the world with oil and gold can quickly learn some tips and tricks about how to profit from commodities.

 3. Currency Pairs

Currency pairs are another popular choice for binary options traders. Traders should focus on the pairs they know well as successful trading of pairs requires a good understanding of the exchange rate and elements that can affect it.

4. Specific Stocks

While these many not be as popular as the other three options, they can be a profitable avenue for traders interested in developing specific knowledge about a given company. These stocks include Apple, Coca Cola, and Morgan Stanley.

Best practices for trading binary options

Financial transactions always include an element of risk but by observing a few best practices, traders of binary options can set themselves up for a positive experience rather than a disappointing one.

1. Find a broker that matches your trading needs – each trader has a specific trading style and finding a broker that matches your needs will greatly facilitate your success with binary options.

2. Choose a broker that offers demo accounts – especially if you are a new trader, having the ability to practice beforehand and getting familiar with a specific trading platform will give you a good sense of what you are about to get into. Use demo accounts to your advantage to get to know your style and your requirements in terms of trading.

3. Never stop learning – binary options are in constant evolution and so are the strategies that can be applied to your trades in order to gain higher returns. Get involved in forums, speak with other traders, and read financial news pertaining to your assets. Try to stay on top of the information in order to have the maximum chance of turning your investment into a profit.

4. Be mindful of your budget – since binary options typically involve smaller investments compared to other forms of trading, losing track of your losses is easy. Establish a budget and respect it no matter what your circumstances may be. Never invest more than you can afford to lose and make sure to choose assets with which you are familiar.

Future of binary options

The trading of binary options in the UK is expected to grow exponentially within the next few years. As more people get online and look for easy and instant ways to make trades, binary options is sure to become one of the top forms of trading.

As the industry grows, so will the laws and regulations guiding it. The UK is well positioned in the world to provide the latest and some of the best regulations in the world. It also often serves as an example for other countries that are hesitant but looking into regulating financial betting.

The UK has chosen to be proactive with binary options and it has paid off; the industry is now well regulated, with many interested consumers and plenty of legitimate brokers offering services. Each component is important in the overall equation and contributes to the well-oiled machine that is the UK binary options market.