European Central Bank Concern for Bitcoin Gets Attention (Again)


Digital currencies have a strong potential to be a disruptive technology in a sector that’s seen very little change in many, many years. In October of last year, the European Central Bank published a report about digital currencies that mentioned Bitcoin 183 times while commenting on the impact of digital currencies on the current state of finances and since then the bitcoin market has seen a notable increase in its own stability and reach.

For an excellent examination of the ECB report back in October, look to the BitInstant blog.

What caught our attention today, however, is Bloomberg’s attention on the subject in an article published this week noting that banks are beginning to notice the disruptive capability of virtual currencies. They have the potential to take over niches that current traditional finances have difficulty penetrating—and as a result, do rank up concerns over potential “shady use” as seen with an article in CNN Fortune recently.

However, the impact of a currency that can be freely traded across international boundaries as a commodity that can be exchanged for local currency easily—and there’s lots of bitcoin exchange vendors looking to fill that niche—could have a real impact on the credit industry.

The Bloomberg article cites Steve Hanke, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “I think the ECB obviously is concerned, and it’s not reputational. I think it’s a competitive threat. Maybe virtual currencies will be so convenient that they will pose a threat because of their ease of use.” His work with new currency regimes in Argentina and Bulgaria are reminiscent of how Bitcoin could be used in African nations that lack a functional central banking structure.

The article also mentions a recent chart that show that Bitcoin has seen a surge in adoption, including Bitpay Inc. which recently received $510,000 to bolster their processing services to merchants and recently announced over 10,000 transactions with zero cases of payment fraud. BitcoinStore (still in beta) offers over 500,000 electronics products for BTC and enjoys the low-overhead of not having to worry about chargebacks or fraud with the use of this digital currency.

“If the central banks are offering a product that people want, they have nothing to worry about,” said Roger Ver, CEO of BitcoinStore about the ECB’s report and the renewed interest in it. “Bitcoin just gives people one more choice when it comes to money, a choice that can’t be taken away by the dictate of a politician.”

In fact, that’s exactly where Bitcoin’s strength may lie: in filling and fulfilling niches that traditional credit systems cannot do well. The reduction in fraud, the ease of use, and the technological solution give it a head start over traditional currency systems. Of course, it probably will not replace traditional currencies (which basically run the economies of entire nations) but it works extremely well as a more-fluid basis for transactions and a glue that can facilitate trade in places where traditional currency is less liquid.

Central banking authorities might seem “concerned” but really this is the fundamental of every disruptive cultural and technological phenomena: Bitcoin has the potential and real leverage to change the current market of how currency exchange happens on the Internet and in the world.