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Swiss payments system aims to link bitcoin and retailers

Spending cryptocurrencies in shops is proving a difficult nut to crack. (© Keystone / Christian Beutler)

Prominent European payment infrastructure provider Worldline has teamed up with financial services firm Bitcoin Suisse to allow cryptocurrency enthusiasts to spend their bitcoin in Swiss shops.

Worldline last year took over SIX Payment Services, the former arm of the Swiss stock exchange group that provides payment card terminals in 85,000 Swiss retail outlets. The French company now wants to hook this infrastructure up with cryptocurrencies.

It has signed a letter of intentexternal link with Swiss crypto company Bitcoin Suisse, which will act as a go-between, converting bitcoin into Swiss francs that will be used to pay for goods and services in Switzerland.

The partnership is still at an early stage with a pilot project planned for 2020. Once it finally goes live, at a date that has yet to be determined, it remains to be seen how many merchants will sign on. If successful, Worldline says it will roll the service out to other European countries.

Ambitious

The Worldline/Bitcoin Suisse deal is the most ambitious project to date to bring cryptocurrencies into the mainstream Swiss retail sector.

Earlier this year, Switzerland’s largest online retailer, Digitec Galaxus, teamed up with e-payment specialist Datatrans and Danish crypto firm Coinify to accept cryptocurrencies as a means of payment.

The luxury Dolder Grand hotel was among a handful of early adopters of the Swiss Inapay system that allows merchants to take cryptocurrency payments without having to handle it themselves.

The latest crypto retail payments offering will most likely start life as an e-payments service, according to Armin Schmid, CEO of Swiss Crypto Tokens, a division of Bitcoin Suisse.

Fee structure

Schmid, who used to work at Swiss Payment Services and Paypal, believes that the service will be enticing for retailers, even though it plans to start on a small scale.

“A mass roll-out of cryptocurrency retail payments is only possible with the involvement of big players such as Worldline,” he told swissinfo.ch. “Many Swiss retailers adopted Alipay to meet demand from customers. We believe our service will create demand for cryptocurrency payments.”

The fee structure for using the service has yet to be defined, added Schmid. But he believes it will not cost merchants any more than accepting credit or debit cards. It will initially concentrate on bitcoin, with the option of including other cryptocurrencies at a later date.

Efficiently using cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, as everyday payments also hinges on smoothing out huge exchange rate volatility with traditional currencies. Such a service would also have to convince regulators that it is not being used to launder money.

Full story here
Matthew Allen
When not covering banks, tax disputes, trade, Brexit, the World Economic Forum and FIFA, swissinfo.ch's business correspondent can be found playing cricket on various grounds in Switzerland - including the frozen lake of St Moritz. Initials: mga
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