As hard to believe as it may sound, technology is still viewed as an entry barrier to the cryptocurrency industry. Some people still do not trust the digital channel to acquire Bitcoins, and they would prefer a more “traditional” approach. Although those people do not represent the majority, we are in 2019 and still see cases of “fear of the Internet.”

For those afraid of venturing into a cryptocurrency exchange and or mining Bitcoin from the comfort of their homes, France provides an innovative alternative: the country’s tobacco shops will sell Bitcoin vouchers thanks to a strategic partnership with Keplerk.

The first announcement came back in November 2018. Now, the alliance between Paris-based FinTech startup Keplerk with six ‘tabac’ shops spread in France’s capital is official. In a similar way that coupons or gift cards function, the tobacco sellers will issue BTC vouchers that people can redeem for digital coins thanks to Keplerk’s crypto wallet. 

Thousands of Licensed Bitcoin-Selling Stores

According to Keplerk co-founder Adil Zhakar, there would be nearly 100 bitcoin-selling tobacco stores in France by the end of the week. He stated that the goal was to enroll over 6,500 licensed tobacco shops in the program by early February. Keplerk wants people to have more available venues in which they can enter the crypto universe.

“Some people find it complicated to get bitcoins online,” Zakhar told a rec. “They trust their local tobacco shop owner more than they would trust some remote anonymous website.” Regulators in France are not quite sure about how to best “tackle” the issue when it comes to Keplerk’s legal validity. For what is worth, the Autorité Des Marchés Financiers (AMF) has already issued an operational approval to PAYSAFEBIT SASU, the public limited firm backing the startup.

The Autorité Des Marchés Financiers is the French equivalent of what the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) is in the United States of America. However, it is not entirely sold on Keplerk and PAYSAFEBIT SASU’s liquidity

The AMF states that “its distribution by a public limited company, PAYSAFEBIT SASU with a capital of 50,000 Euros, using the trade name KEPLERK, which does not have any authorization or approval by a French or foreign authority, is not likely to provide any guarantee to the customer base.”

A Matter of Regulation

Confusion, therefore, dominates the scene, mainly because cryptocurrencies are not yet regulated in France. The extent of their acceptance within the country’s legal framework is limited to a couple of ordinances on blockchain technology, but not much more. Far from serving as an encouraging entity, the AMF has continuously warned potential investors about the potential risks of Bitcoin and altcoins. In fact, the organization does not consider them financial instruments.

As a member of the European Union (EU,) France will probably follow the EU’s path when it comes to defining and regulating these assets. The nature of startups such as Keplerk will likely become clearer from a legal standpoint once the European Banking Authority materializes the recent proposal to create a pan-EU bitcoin law.

By Andres Chavez


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