UPDATE (16th December 17:45 GMT): Netopia's partner exchange BTCXchange.ro has announced that it is suspending operations due to security issues. It is asking all users to withdraw all funds in fiat and BTC by 19th of December. CoinDesk has reached out to Netopia for comment and will update the article upon receiving additional information.
One of the biggest online payment processors in Romania is integrating a bitcoin option into its services for merchants.
Netopia mobilPay said the move would provide more than 6,000 partner retailers with the ability to process bitcoin payments, with no additional development costs.
Antonio Eram, Netopia mobilPay's CEO and founder, told CoinDesk:
"We see a great future for bitcoins, however, we cannot estimate the impact on the market. There are a lot of things to take in consideration. We are setting the foundations, and future will tell us if we are right (or not). "
He explained that the company will set "very low" percentage fees per transaction and is working on simplifying the acceptance model to enable faster adoption.
"Bitcoin transactions will certainly see growth in the next six months and we are probably looking at something up to €100,000 in the first months," Eram said.
The company – which specialises in small transactions in the €0.50 to €20.00 range – is currently processing around 50% of all mobile payments in Romania, according to the CEO, and offers a range of services, such as payments by SMS or telephone, and credit card payments.
Growing the bitcoin ecosystem
The company's goal for cryptocurrencies, Eram continued, is to create an environment in which bitcoin is widely accepted, creating an ecosystem based on blockchain technology.
"We have opened bitcoin processing and made it available to all our 6,000-plus merchants (online and offline). Bitcoin implementation is an opt-in service. This is due to Romanian and EU regulation, and is basically done by checking 'I want to accept bitcoin' within our payment gateway."
Romania has vibrant bitcoin community, he added, with bitcoin ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) services that accept and sell bitcoins, along with at least one operational exchange.
"You can buy bitcoin at more than 2,000 ZebraPay and Qiwi Kiosk terminals throughout the country. I don’t think that there is any country where it is easier to get bitcoin. You can literally buy them on every corner," said Eram.
The company has also launched a mobile wallet in Romania, in partnership with MasterCard. While the company is considering integrating bitcoin into the wallet, Eram admits this is "a bit of a stretch".
Netopia mobilPay was incorporated in 2003 and currently has offices in Bucharest, Romania, and Sunnyvale, California. It is active in Romania and Mexico with several payments-related services. The company processed 810,000 transactions in the first quarter of 2014, up 40% over the same period last year.