Turkey’s CBRT Bans Uses of Crypto Assets in Payment

The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (“CBRT”) has recently issued the Regulation on the Disuse of Crypto Assets in Payments (“Regulation”) which will be applicable as of April 30,2021. While the Regulation specially targets and bans the use of crypto assets in payments, it defines and recognizes the concept of crypto asset for the first time.

Accordingly, by virtue of the Regulation, crypto asset is defined as the intangible assets that are created in virtual environment by using distributed ledger technology or a similar technology and distributed over digital networks, but that are not qualified as fiat money, registered money, electronic money, payment instrument, securities, or other capital market instrument. With the Regulation, crypto assets will not be used directly or indirectly in payments. Therefore, the Regulation explicitly prohibits the provision of services for direct or indirect use of crypto assets in payments.

To emphasize, the Regulation stipulates that payment service providers will not be able to develop business models in a way that crypto assets are used directly or indirectly in the provision of payment services and electronic money issuance and will not be able to provide any services related to such business models. Furthermore, it establishes that payment and electronic money institutions will not be able to mediate platforms that offer trading, custody, transfer, or issuance services for crypto assets besides mediating fund transfers from them. However, as the Regulation does not bring out specific definitions in terms of “payment service provider” and “payment and electronic money institution”, many discussions occurred whether trading of crypto assets will still be made through the banks in Turkey.

To elaborate, the Law on Payment and Securities Settlement Systems, Payment Services and Electronic Money Institutions (“Law No. 6493”) defines payment service providers and payment institutions separately. Therefore, it refers banks as the payment service providers and any payment institution which is authorized by CBRT and intends to operate in the payment services, as the payment institutions. To this end, since banks are defined as payment service providers separately from the payment institutions within the scope of the Law No. 6493 and are not listed in the Regulation, it is considered that they will be able to transact with the platforms that offer trading, custody, transfer, or issuance services for crypto assets. Still, it is considered that it would be fructuous for CBRT to clarify this issue.

Background

CBRT has published a press release numbered 2021-17 in its official website, stating its motive to issue a new regulation on the use of crypto assets. Pursuant to this press release, it is said that crypto assets entail significant risks to the relevant parties due to certain reasons. Accordingly, these reasons include the following:

-they are neither subject to any regulation and supervision mechanisms nor a central regulatory authority,

-their market values can be excessively volatile,

-they may be used in illegal actions due to their anonymous structures,

-wallets can be stolen or used unlawfully without the authorization of their holders,

-transactions are irrevocable.

Addressing to the recent initiatives on the emergence of the use of these assets in payments, CBRT concluded that crypto assets include elements that may undermine the confidence in methods and instruments used currently in payments.

Ezgi Ceren Aydoğmuş