Binary Options – How is the legal situation in Australia?

Binary options has integrated itself into the financial market as an alternative to the Forex market, enabling profiting, but as opposed to Forex, the risk is smaller. Binary options trading was introduced in 2008, and it needed a few years to gain in popularity and to be accepted as a proper form of investment. In contrast to Forex, binary options include better risk prediction, whereby traders can calculate how much they could possibly gain before they even place a trade.

Australia has always been a major financial investment center and its citizens have always enjoyed speculating on the stock market which is why Australians were one of the first to embrace binary options. Since binary options is not legal in all countries, one might wonder what consequences can be incurred on Australian traders. This review is going to break down the particularities of binary options trading in Australia and whether it is legal or not to make investments in this kind of market.

Is Binary Options a Legal Form of Trading in Australia?

The answer is yes. Australia counts to the countries that have no particular laws in place that prohibit binary options trading. The Australian legislation does not hinder people from opening broker companies of any kind or foreign companies to establish a market on Australian territory in the hope to establish an Australian customer base.

The government sees binary options trading rather a welcome alternative or addition to the functioning Forex and stock market. The government aims to set clear guidelines in order to regulate the binary options market in order to supress manipulation and scamming just like in any other market. It is quite amazing that the rise of binary options trading became so significant that it requires a serious governmental approach to control fraud and other forms of illegal actions.

The Australian Government and Its Protection Policy in the Options Market

Binary options has become so popular in Australia that the government assigned the task of regulation to no other than the Australian Securities and Investments Commission- ASIC. ASIC is already a well-known regulator and an old hand in regulating the financial markets of Australia by supervising the Forex, stocks, and securities industries. ASIC is responsible to the government and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer by submitting regular reports on its actions and activities. ASIC is not funded by the state budget, but relies on own revenues which it charges from its licensees.

An ASIC license is the only certificate that grants a legal permission to operate on the financial market in Australia. ASIC has proven its commitment to a transparent and fair market through the years which did not pass by unnoticed. The result is that ASIC enjoys the trust of the majority of traders and the relevant Australian institutions. ASIC is even known beyond Australian borders, since the financial market works on an international level and many Europeans and Americans are aware of ASIC’s role and policy.

Since binary options is relatively new, there is still a limited number of binary options companies incorporated in Australia, but Australian traders also enjoy the freedom to trade with international options brokers.

In order to prepare properly, ASIC issued a 4-year plan for the supervision of binary options companies (including Forex and CFD companies as well) in 2016. The document was set out on 44 pages addressing the main risks and challenges for 2016 and 2017and provides a legal basis for the said companies until 2020.

Still, the Australian government remains very strict when it comes to offshore companies and does not let them operate on Australian territory under an international license, but it requires the ASIC license. This means that a company under the supervision of the British FCA (which is the British equivalent of ASIC) cannot operate under its domestic FCA license but has to fulfil the ASIC criteria to open a branch office in Australia.

The ASIC requirements consist of a series of requests which the binary options brokers (as well as other non-banking financial entities) have to meet in order to operate in Australia. These requirements include sufficient substantial capital which will cover potential and real business risks and an insurance guarantee to clients in case of insolvency, as well as compliance with Australian laws related to finances, and qualified staff, especially managers, directors, and other key staff who have to have adequate qualifications and experience.

After the binary options broker has fulfilled all of the listed criteria, it will obtain the ASIC license, free to run its broker business in Australia. Also, in order to maintain the work ethics throughout, the ASIC team requires the subjects of regulation to submit regular reports on activities, including financial reports (all transactions included).

Are there Any Illegal Options Brokers in Australia?

Despite the efforts of ASIC, probably there are a dozen of unregistered options brokers who offer their services to Australian traders whereas being unregistered makes them illegal. ASIC tries its best to track down such brokers and they have significantly decreased the number of illegal brokers, but yet, the binary options market remains disintegrated to a certain extent which makes it hard to track down all fraudsters.

The unregistered options brokers sometimes falsely claim to be licensed and that is how they lure many traders. Traders should also be careful and make a thorough research on the options brokers before they register with one in order to be sure that they trade legally.

Are Australian Options Traders at Risk?

When trading binary options, there is always the risk of loss of investments. Well, this would be one type of risk, and it is completely normal, but they also might be at risk if they join the wrong broker. When registering with an unlicensed broker, it is like traders give their consent to trade without any safety net. If they get scammed by the broker, chances are that they cannot get back their assets since there is no legal form that binds the broker to give them back their money. The only thing that they can hope for in that situation is that the illegal broker will be charged for illegal business but they will probably never get back their funds.

We see that the binary options market has two sides, whereas to be on the good side, traders have to check out their options broker, the laws under which it operates, the laws that guarantee security of funds, and the overall image of the binary options broker.