French cryptocurrency adoption and usage are set to receive a minor boost from next year, as the French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority (ACPR), a regulatory offshoot of the Banque de France has granted permission for tobacco shops in the country to sell bitcoin from January 1, 2019.
According to a news report from Europe 1, the shops in question, which typically offer lottery tickets and cigarettes will now begin to offer bitcoin for sale via a partnership with the French Fintech startup Keplerk.
World First for Bitcoin
The partnership with Keplerk also includes a local cash register software provider,which will provide the infrastructure for selling bitcoin to cigarette shop customers. The shops will sell a voucher to customers, which can be redeemed for bitcoin via Keplerk's crypto wallet. According to Keplerk, this marks the first time anywhere in the world that brick and mortar shops will sell bitcoin to the general public.
Commenting on the choice of tobacco shops as a vehicle for selling bitcoin, Adil Zakhar, Keplerk’s director for strategy and development, said:
“Tobacco shop owners are the best channel as they are trusted by customers and they are used to sell vouchers such as credit for mobile phones.”
According to Keplerk, the project will be financed charging a 7 percent commission fee on every transaction. The company further revealed that it has been working to secure the necessary regulatory permission and corporate partnerships for over a year and a half.
French Regulatory Resignation
French financial regulators have a long-standing distrust of cryptocurrencies and have warned repeatedly about the dangers of investing in crypto. On Wednesday, the French central bank underlined its skepticism of crypto, stating that the ACPR granted the permission in its own independent capacity, which should not be taken to mean that it supervises the Keplerk project.
In a statement released on Wednesday the Banque de France said:
“Those are purely speculative assets and not currencies. Those who invest in bitcoin or other crypto-assets do it at their own risk.”
Despite such regulatory antipathy, use of cryptocurrencies continues to grow in France. A report on cryptocurrencies by France's "Monsieur Bitcoin", Jean-Pierre Landau submitted to the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance in July this year encapsulates much of the French regulatory attitude toward cryptocurrencies. An extract from the report reads:
"The right approach is to let the crypto-currencies and the innovations they carry develop in the virtual space they occupy."
Update 11/26: French regulators clarified in public statements that, contrary to earlier reports, the government had not explicitly authorized the plan to sell bitcoin in local tobacco shops.
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