Merchants in the eurozone area could be obliged to accept a digital euro if it is deemed to be legal tender, according to a paper set to be put before finance ministers later Monday and seen by CoinDesk.
Giving the central bank digital currency, or CBDC, the same status as banknotes and coins would mean payments legally discharge obligations to pay, and with mandatory acceptance at full face value, the paper said.
Legal tender status “would imply a legal obligation for (certain) payees to accept payments in digital euro … thereby increasing its network effects, and potentially affecting its distribution,” the document read.
The paper also asks ministers "whether exemptions should be considered to ensure proportional application ... balancing the principles of contractual freedom and mandatory acceptance."
At a previous discussion in January, ministers said the digital euro shouldn’t be programmable, because giving the ability to limit how a given payment can be used by the recipient would impair money’s fungible status.
The European Central Bank is set to formally decide whether to issue its currency in digital format in the fall, and officials are working on technical details such as which potential uses to prioritize.
Governments in European Union countries will be involved in agreeing on any legislation needed to underpin the CBDC. Last week, the European Commission's Mairead McGuinness confirmed that a bill due shortly will, alongside legal tender status, examine anti-money-laundering rules and compensation for those distributing the currency.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.