The virtual currency Bitcoin took a step towards legitimacy today as its eurozone wing joined the ranks of PayPal and Worldpay by becoming a registered payment services provider (PSP) under European law.
Under a deal made in France with the investment firm Aqoba and the Crédit Mutuel bank, Bitcoin-Central now has an international bank ID number, meaning the network will be able to send and receive transfers to and from other banks and issue debit cards for users.
In a post on the Bitcoin forum, Bitcoin staffer davout announced: “At Paymium we spent lots of time and energy talking about Bitcoin to our regulating bodies, the Banque de France, the ACP (French equivalent of the American SEC), TRACFIN (AML French supervising body) etc. We engaged all these resources with one goal in mind: get these people to know Bitcoin, advocate our beloved crypto-currency and listen to them, help them think until they finally reach the same conclusion as we did: there’s nothing wrong with people being free.
“There’s nothing wrong with people freely exchanging value, we don’t hurt anybody, we’re not forcing anyone to use Bitcoin, we simply want to see our dream and the future of money become a reality.”
The virtual currency has seen significant growth since it launched in 2009 with an estimated 10.5m bitcoins currently being traded. One bitcoin is currently worth £8.54, after peaking at nearly £18 in June 2011, meaning the Bitcoin empire represents £89.6m of trading value.
Bitcoin magazine’s editor, Vitalik Buterin, told the BBC the deal would encourage more growth and make it more accessible to new users.
It will also mean balances held in euros by Bitcoin will be subject to the same protection and compensation laws as cash held in conventional banks.
“The more we see governments and banks being willing to deal with Bitcoin, the more comfortable a lot of organisations are going to be making the step forward themselves,” he said.
Despite a fiercely dedicated userbase in the tech community, Bitcoin’s ubiquity and the anonymity of its users have also made it an attractive exchange platform for criminals, leading to a call by the US Senate in 2011 to investigate the site for tax evasion and money laundering.
The chairman of the non-profit Bitcoin Foundation, Peter Vessenes, said in October that the site was battling against barriers to more widespread adoption.
“There’s a lot to love [but] … there are botnet operators, hackers, and Ponzi-scheme runners floating around our space,” he said.
“As the Bitcoin economy has evolved, we have all noticed barriers to its widespread adoption – [programs] that attempt to undermine the network, hackers that threaten wallets, and an undeserved reputation stirred by ignorance and inaccurate reporting.”
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