The Payments Council, the organisation that sets strategy for payment mechanisms in the UK, has issued a statement saying that it is “neutral” on bitcoin, though it sees “opportunities” for digital currencies.

In response to questions from CoinDesk, the Payments Council said that it had been tracking the progress of digital currencies “with interest”, and that bitcoin was one of many “competitive offerings” that are emerging in the UK.

The organisation appeared to be relatively positive on the future of digital currencies:

“As shopping habits are increasingly moving across borders and continents, it seems certain that there will be real opportunities for virtual currency providers who are outside of traditional domestic banking systems.”

The council’s statement also noted that digital currencies, like other payment services, would be driven by consumer demand.

The council appeared to be using the terms ‘digital currency’ and ‘virtual currency’ interchangeably in its statement. CoinDesk refers to bitcoin as a ‘digital currency’.

About the council

The Payments Council is the governing body for UK payments systems and services. As such, its task is to lead the development of future payment systems and regulate the accountability and transparency of existing systems. It is a voluntary organisation with a membership comprising banks and building societies, including HSBC, Nationwide Building Society, Citibank and others.

Among the schemes that the Payment Council operates is the LINK ATM scheme, which ensures cash cards issued by banks, building societies and other institutions can be used across different ATMs. Almost all of the UK’s ATMs are connected to the LINK network.

The council sets rules on the security of transactions, customer data and fees charged.

Common interests

The council has an interest in promoting speedier Internet transactions. Under the Faster Payments Scheme, launched in 2008, Internet and phone payments for individuals and businesses in the UK saw transaction times reduced from three working days to several hours.

The system was designed to allow quick transactions for amounts of less than £100,000 (US$166,680).

The council is now working on a UK-wide mobile payments scheme that will allow consumers to send secure payments to mobile phone numbers instead of a bank account number. The council promises that this process will be “as easy as texting”. Some 90% of UK current accounts will be able to do this when the scheme is launched this spring.

Featured image via Jim Killock/Flickr

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