Australia’s financial regulator has sued trading platform eToro over one of the leveraged trading products it offered to retail investors, alleging inappropriate screening tests caused thousands of users to lose money.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said on Aug. 3 it commenced Federal Court proceedings over eToro’s contract for difference (CFD) product for targeting too wide a market and breaching design and distribution rules.

CFDs are a type of leveraged derivatives contract that allows buyers to speculate on price movements of an underlying asset such as foreign exchange rates, stock market indices, single equities, commodities, or cryptocurrencies — all of which eToro offers.

ASIC alleged the CFDs offered by eToro were “high-risk and volatile” and the platform’s target market screening test didn’t properly exclude unsuitable customers from trading the product, stating:

“eToro’s screening test was very difficult to fail and of no real use in excluding customers for who the CFD product was not likely to be appropriate.”

“For example, clients could amend their answers without limitation and clients were prompted if they selected answers which could result in them failing,” it said. 

eToro’s crypto CFDs allow for up to two times leverage on certain assets. Others cover stocks, currencies, commodities and precious metals.

ASIC’s filing notice said CFD product risks were heightened where the underlying assets also had their own risks which included “extremely high-risk and volatile products such as crypto-assets.”

The regulator also alleged that eToro’s CFD target market was too broad, where users that had no understanding of CFD trading risks could still fall within its target.

“ASIC alleges that between 5 October 2021 and 14 June 2023, almost 20,000 of eToro’s clients lost money trading CFDs,” it added.

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ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court said CFD issuers “cannot simply reverse engineer their target markets to fit existing client bases” and expressed disappointment in eToro’s alleged lack of compliance.

Cointelegraph contacted eToro and ASIC for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

In the United States, eToro halted trading in four cryptocurrencies following the tokens being labeled as securities in lawsuits by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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