Businesses interested in accepting Bitcoin as a method of payment should stay away for the time being, because despite the lure of its ever increasing value, it is still unregulated.
That is what Tim Buckingham, partner in Eversheds LLP's Financial Services Dispute Resolution team, said at the law firm's recent Retail Conference 2014 event at its headquarters in London.
"Bitcoin has got lots of publicity, but would you actually accept it as payment for anything you want to sell? Don't do it at the moment," he advised.
Buckingham suggested the virtual currency is mainly used by those looking to hide their activities and thus it cannot currently be trusted. However, he accepted that this may not always be the case.
"People were probably saying that about PayPal back in 1998 and look how that turned out. But at the moment Bitcoin is completely unregulated and is used by people trying to conceal who they are and what they're doing," he said.
"Until such time that banks are going to accept it as a proper payment method, my take on it is that it should be left well alone."
Nonetheless, Buckingham acknowledged there is a serious question about when retailers should accept Bitcoin as tender.
"From your point of view, Bitcoin is an interesting concept," he told retail representatives in the audience. "When do you start to accept different or alternative payment methods? Because you don't want to stop your customers from coming in and buying from you."
As an example of new payment methods coming to the fore, Buckingham pointed to China UnionPay bank cards, which were first launched in 2002 but have now become widely accepted as a method of payment globally.
"We've seen China UnionPay coming in during the last three or four years because of the influx of Chinese tourists coming into the UK and Europe," he said. "Lots of retailers are now taking China UnionPay who weren't taking it four or five years ago."
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