Controversy Surrounds Plan to Sell Bitcoin in French Tobacco Shops

John Vibes
  • A plan to sell Bitcoin in thousands of different tobacco shops in France was announced this week, but the country's central bank says it did not allow it.
  • The group behind the new project says that it doesn't need permission from the central bank.

This week, the tobacco federation of France, the Fédération des Buralistes, announced a plan to sell Bitcoin (BTC) at thousands of tobacco shops throughout the country.

According to the announcement, the tobacco federation has struck a deal with the French cryptocurrency wallet provider KeplerK, to distribute bitcoin vouchers through storefronts, which can then be redeemed through KeplerK’s website, where they are instructed to set up a wallet. Sales are expected to come early next year to between 4,000 and 5,000 different stores, and customers will able to buy bitcoin in denominations of 50, 100 and 250 euros.

Central Bank Denies Approval

Initially, the announcement for the project stated that they received approval from the French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority (ACPR), a regulatory agency that works under the Central Bank of France. However, the central bank quickly disputed this claim, stating that it never approved such an effort and that it do not advise citizens trade cryptocurrencies.

The Bank of France clarified in its statement that:

"Contrary to what was said this morning by some radio stations, without prior verification, no agreement has been signed to allow the sale of bitcoin in tobacco shops...No agreement is also discussed or envisaged on the subject."

The statement went on to warn French citizens about the "highly speculative nature" of cryptocurrencies.

The governor of the Bank of France, Francois Villeroy de Galhau, has issued similar warnings about crypto in the past, telling citizens to trade at their own risk. Galgau said:

"Its value and its high volatility do not correspond to any economic underpinning and are not the responsibility of anyone."

Plan Going Forward Despite Controversy

According to French publication Le Monde, the Bank of France does not have juristiction over this project. Le Monde reports (translated):

"It is a simple commercial partnership between the KeplerK bitcoin platform and Bimedia, which supplies payment terminals to around four thousand tobacconists in France. From 1 January 2019, on the model of prepaid phone cards, these tobacconists will be able to offer their customers coupons that will give the right to a credit of bitcoins or ethereums (another cryptocurrency) on the KeplerK platform. However, not only this novelty does not directly concern the tobacconists (who will only be intermediaries); but this activity in no way requires the approval of the Banque de France or the Prudential Supervisory Authority, contrary to what Europe 1 writes: the purchase of cryptocurrencies is not forbidden in the territory, and already exists, in France, physical counters to buy bitcoin."

Despite the central bank's warnings France has notably been somewhat accepting of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technlogy. Earlier this year, as CryptoGlobe reported, the country initiated the process of regulating initial coin offerings (ICOs). The move is set to help ICO projects navigate the country's regulations, while at the same time protecting investors and cracking down on scams in the nascent industry.

UNICEF France has earlier this year also started accepting BTC donations, as well as in nine other major cryptocurrencies. There are other charitable organizations in the country accepting crypto.