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ASIC shuts down electronic currency Web sites

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has moved to shut down several electronic currency trading Web sites operating without a financial services licence.ASIC's executive director of enforcement, Jan Redfern, said the regulator had acted after investigating three Australian-based businesses operating currency trading Web sites or acting as agents for similar businesses based overseas.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has moved to shut down several electronic currency trading Web sites operating without a financial services licence.

ASIC's executive director of enforcement, Jan Redfern, said the regulator had acted after investigating three Australian-based businesses operating currency trading Web sites or acting as agents for similar businesses based overseas.

The businesses -- Stevens IT Pty Ltd, Sydney Gold Sales and Fountainhead Management had cooperated with ASIC and shut down their Web sites voluntarily, Redfern said.

She cautioned local businesses to be careful about dealing in unregulated overseas-based financial products and said consumers needed to be discerning about the financial products available via the Internet.

"If a business isn't properly registered with an Australian financial services licence, then customers can't be sure about the quality of the product or advice they are receiving. Remember, offering financial advice or products without a licence is illegal," she said.

Electronic currencies are privately issued currencies used to trade goods and services on the Internet. The issuers of the currencies -- the most common of which is e-gold -- are based offshore.