Nabilla and Bitcoin: the sanctions of the DGCCRF

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Three years ago, Nabilla's Snapchat statements about bitcoin had inflamed the media, causing the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) to react. On July 28, 2021, the epilogue of this case was announced in a statement from the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF). The influencer, followed by millions of people, must pay a transactional fine of 20,000 euros!

As a reminder, in January 2018, Nabilla said, "Darlings, I don't know if you've heard of bitcoin, like this kind of new virtual currency... And actually I know one of the girls who works with a trader who is into bitcoin. It's kind of the new currency, like the currency of the future. And so I actually think it's pretty good. And as it is currently developing, they have created a site [...] that allows you to learn how to use bitcoin. So I think it's a good time, it's just starting to develop, and I think it's time to get a little bit interested. In fact, even if you don't know anything about it, it allows you to make money without investing a lot, like you invest small amounts, like I had to put in about 1,000 euros and I've already earned 800 euros, but you can do much less."

The AMF reacted with a tweet: "Nabilla Bitcoin is very risky! You can lose your entire stake. No miracle investment. Stay away."

The national investigation service of the DGCCRF had then diligently investigated this commercial promotion concerning the trading training services offered by a website specializing in the sale and purchase of bitcoins.

The results of these investigations are instructive in more ways than one.

Nabilla Benattia

The investigators note that the influencer failed to mention that she was paid by the companies operating this site to promote it. However, the lack of indication of the advertising nature of her publication (by a logo or an oral or written mention for example) constitutes a misleading commercial practice against her subscribers who may wrongly believe that the promotion of the influencer is the result of a disinterested positive personal experience.

Then, the DGCCRF notes that in this "story", the influencer alleged that the service offered by the trading site was free, that the sums invested were systematically recovered and that the returns could be as high as 80% thanks to their advice. These comments are likely to mislead the consumer on the characteristics of the service and the results expected from its use. In this respect, they also fall under the heading of misleading commercial practices.

Beyond the simple fact, this case is important for the cryptocurrency community.

Indeed, the use of social networks and influencers are excessively common in the sector. However, the DGCCRF reminds in its press release that it controls the practices implemented in this new advertising sector in order to ensure the transparency and fairness of the claims conveyed. The publications of influencers on social networks are indeed likely to have a significant impact on the economic behavior of people who follow them and must not mislead consumers. In this respect, other investigations are underway.

The Nabilla case is therefore just the beginning.

In addition, crypto companies that want to obtain the status of provider on digital assets (PSAN) with the AMF, must be aware that this authority is and will be particularly vigilant about compliance with the provisions of the consumer code.

Following the press release, the AMF also praised the action of the DGCCRF and the Prosecutor of the Paris Judicial Court and recalled that it is actively cooperating with other public institutions to strengthen the proper information of investors tempted by high-risk investments and to prevent scams.

Finally, it should be noted that if Nabilla is a first example of a sanction in this area, the next sanctions could be much more severe.

Indeed, article L132-2 of the consumer code states that:

"The misleading commercial practices mentioned in Articles L. 121-2 to L. 121-4 are punishable by two years imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 euros. The amount of the fine may be increased, in proportion to the benefits derived from the offence, to 10% of the average annual turnover, calculated on the last three annual turnovers known on the date of the facts, or to 50% of the expenses incurred in carrying out the advertising or practice constituting this offence."

Nabilla benefited from a procedure allowing the DGCCRF, as long as the public prosecution has not been initiated, to settle, after agreement of the public prosecutor of the Paris Judicial Court. Nabilla thus paid a transactional fine of 20,000 euros.

We can therefore understand why following this agreement, Nabilla indicated on social networks that she was "very happy that this is regularized."