Bitcoin Deutschland GmbH has received confirmation that, from 7th August, it will be registered with BaFin, Germany's Federal Financial Supervisory Authority.
The company operates bitcoin.de, a marketplace where people can exchange fiat currencies for bitcoins (and vice versa) with each other. Bitcoin.de has an arrangement with Fidor Bank, which means it is licensed to operate as a 'finance intermediary' while Fidor Bank bears the liability for bitcoin.de's operations.
Stefan Greiner, of Xenion Legal, said: "This arrangement, as such, is nothing special as thousands of so-called 'independent' finance intermediaries in Germany operate under the same model (as 'tied agents'). The only special feature in the relationship between bitcoin.de and Fidor Bank is that the 'financial services' they are offering relate to bitcoins."
He went on to say that, to his knowledge, neither bitcoin.de nor Fidor Bank is exchanging fiat currencies for bitcoins themselves. With this in mind, it appears bitcoin.de "does not need to worry anymore that its bank accounts or the bank accounts of its clients will be shut down all of a sudden".
"Bitcoin.de's business model is fairly specific. Therefore I believe the consequences of the registration with BaFin for other bitcoin companies in Germany or elsewhere should be minimal," Greiner added.
He said it is promising that BaFin has actually accepted a financial service relating to bitcoins rather than taking prohibitive action, but he doesn't believe Germany will become the first wholly bitcoin-friendly nation in the world.
"Germany has an inherent tendency to over-regulate. However, with the Euro crisis latent in the background and the growing start-up scene, primarily in Berlin, maybe – hopefully – Germany will become a bit more experimental," Greiner added.
A document originally published by BaFin on 20th December 2011, but updated on 19th July this year, clearly states that bitcoins are 'units of accounts' and therefore can be classed as 'financial instruments'. This, in principle, means that any regulation pertaining to financial instruments is applicable to bitcoin.
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