Paris has seen some tense standoffs in recent weeks, but one that has slipped under the radar of many is the battle between regulators and a French fintech startup involving the selling of Bitcoin vouchers in French tobacconists. Following almost two months of debate with French regulators, crypto sales platform Keplerk is finally accepting customers after successfully getting Bitcoin vouchers, redeemable on their website, into its first tranche of tobacconists. Keplerk ambitiously hopes to have vouchers for sale in 6,500 tobacconists around France by February.
— Keplerk (@keplerk_) January 9, 2019
Warnings, But No Ban
Keplerk’s immediate future looked grim when they first tried to launch the voucher system in November last year. This was met with a three-pronged attack from the Autorité des marchés financiers (the French stock market regulator), the Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (an independent administrative authority), and the Banque de France, the French central bank, who issued a joint statement highlighting the risks of investing in “speculative assets”. These authorities didn’t seem to spot the fact that warning smokers about the risks to their financial health of investing in Bitcoin contained a degree of irony so high it’s hard to measure. Despite the strong objections and warnings, the authorities did not step in to stop Keplerk, and the vouchers have finally gone on sale.
Welcome Boost for Suffering Shop Owners
Bitcoin vouchers may come as a welcome boost for tobacconists hit hard by declining levels of smoking, which has seen them branch out into prepaid credit cards, cellphone credits, and money transfer services. Offering cryptocurrency is another welcome revenue stream for these business owners. The voucher redemption scheme has come under fire from some industry insiders who claim that buying online is quicker and easier. But, given that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are trying to appeal to a broader demographic instead of those who already own it, having physical representations quickly available to buy might represent a good starting point to get it noticed more, at the very least.