Digital Pound Consultation Received Over 50,000 Responses, With Privacy a Major Concern

Many of the respondents outlined concerns around privacy, programmability and the decline of cash, Jon Cunliffe, deputy governor of the Bank of England said.

AccessTimeIconOct 27, 2023 at 12:04 p.m. UTC
Updated Oct 27, 2023 at 12:47 p.m. UTC
  • The Bank of England received more than 50,000 responses to its digital pound consultation, with concerns over privacy, programmability and the decline of cash.
  • Forthcoming stablecoin regulations could outlaw more decentralized models.

The Bank of England (BOE) garnered over 50,000 responses to its consultation on a digital pound, Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe said in a speech on Thursday.

The majority expressed concerns over privacy, programmability and the decline of cash, Cunliffe said at a conference held by the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C.

The digital pound consultation launched in February and closed in June, and the central bank has said a central bank digital currency (CBDC) will likely be needed, despite taking no formal decision yet on whether to issue.

Users of the digital pound will have access to the same level of privacy that they enjoy today when making electronic payments he said to quench concerns, adding that the BOE would not see people's data.

Respondents were concerned the central bank would make the digital pound programmable and constrain its functionality – something that won't happen, Cunliffe said. "It would be for private sector firms to develop and offer, for user consent, payment services involving greater programmability," he said.

"Criticisms of the digital pound have ranged from concerns that it would be adopted at a scale and pace that would disintermediate the banking system and threaten financial stability, to, at the same time, concerns that there would be no use for it and it would be a 'solution looking for a problem,'" said Cunliffe, who is leaving his Bank of England role next week.

Bankers said in February that they worried a digital pound would cause a two-tier system between cash and digital money. The government recently legislated to ensure the availability of physical cash, he added.

Cunliffe said there had been general support for the CBDC's overall model, but that the central bank will refine estimates of take-up and holding limits. It previously proposed that individuals wouldn't be able to hold more than 10,000 ($12,000) to 20,000 pounds of the CBDC, at least during an introductory period.

Cunliffe promised a discussion paper on its regime for major stablecoins – cryptocurrencies whose value is tied to other assets such as the pound – "very soon," and hinted that regulations could rule out more decentralized models.

The central bank "will require a legal entity that can be identified as the payment system operator and held responsible for the end-to-end management of risks," he said. "It is not clear that use of public, permissionless transfer mechanisms, at least with current technology, would be consistent with this requirement."

The regime will also likely put limits on stablecoins on the lines of those envisaged for the digital pound, and banks who issue stablecoins should create a separate legal entity with different branding to "avoid confusion among consumers and so avoid contagion in a stress between different forms of money," he said.

Edited by Jack Schickler and Sheldon Reback.


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Camomile Shumba

Camomile Shumba is a CoinDesk regulatory reporter based in the UK. She previously worked as an intern for Business Insider and Bloomberg News. She does not currently hold value in any digital currencies or projects.