Turkey introduces its first regulation on Crypto Assets

Turkey
Drafted by the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT), the Regulation on the Disuse of Crypto Assets in Payments is Turkey's first piece of legislation regulating crypto assets. The Law on Payment and Securities Settlement Systems, Payment Services and Electronic Money Institutions (Law No. 6493) serves as the Regulation's legal grounds.
 
The Regulation prohibits the use of crypto assets for payments as well as providing services in exchange for crypto assets.
 
The Regulation was published in the Official Gazette on 16 April 2021, and will enter into force on 30 April 2021.

Definition of crypto assets

Crypto assets are defined under the Regulation as “intangible assets virtually created by use of distributed ledger technology or a similar technology and distributed over digital networks but not classified as fiat money, registered money, electronic money, payment instrument, security or other capital market instrument.”

Disuse in payments

Article 3 (2) of the Regulation stipulates that crypto assets cannot be used in payments directly or indirectly. Article 3 (3) further states that “no service can be provided regarding the direct or indirect payments made through crypto assets.”

Prohibition of business development

According to Article 4 of the Regulation, payment service providers are prohibited from:

  • developing business models using crypto assets directly or indirectly to provide payment services and to issue electronic money; and
  • providing services related to such business models.

The “payment service providers” are listed under Law No. 6493 as: 

  • banks within the scope of the Banking Law No. 5411;
  • payment institutions;
  • electronic money institutions; and
  • the Postal and Telegraph Corporation.

Banks within the scope of Banking Law No. 5411 are deposit banks in Turkey, participation banks, development and investment banks, institutions of this nature that established overseas branches in Turkey, financial holding companies, the Banks Association of Turkey, the Participation Banks Association of Turkey, the Banking Regulation and The Supervisory Authority, the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund and their activities.

Considering the increasing appeal for crypto assets worldwide, this prohibition could be interpreted as a cautionary step, and one that will likely hinder the growth of the FinTech sector in Turkey.

Service ban on crypto asset platforms

The Regulation also prohibits payment and electronic money institutions from acting as an intermediary for platforms offering trading, custody, transfer or issuance services for crypto assets or fund transfers from these platforms.

“Electronic money institutions”, “payment institutions” and “banks” are listed separately under Law No. 6493. It could be derived from the wording of Law No. 6493 that banks do not fall under the scope of this ban and users of these platforms are free to continue trading activities through banks for fund transfers to and from the platforms. Nevertheless, the CBRT’s clarification is required.

Rationale for the Regulation

The press release published by the CBRT together with the Regulation explains the rationale behind the Regulation:

“Crypto assets are not subject to any regulation and supervision mechanism; there is no central addressee; market values show excessive volatility; the assets can be used in illegal activities due to their anonymous structure, can be stolen or used illegally without the knowledge of the owners, and the transactions are irreversible for the parties concerned. Crypto Assets contain significant risks.

Recently, it has been observed that various initiatives have been launched to use these assets in the field of payments. It is considered that the use of these assets in payments is likely to cause unrecoverable grievances for the parties of the transaction due to the aforementioned reasons and contain elements that may create weaknesses in the methods and tools currently used in this field.”

Conclusion

While quite brief, the Regulation is the precursor for more legislation on crypto assets that is expected to come under the government’s Medium-Term Programme for the period up to 2023. Watch this space for developments.

For more information on this regulation, contact your CMS client partner or local experts: alican.babalioglu@ybk-av.com, damla.erensoy@ybk-av.com, and jerfi.dogan@ybk-av.com