Economic commentary: Have virtual currencies affected the retail payments market?


All available data indicate that the use of virtual currencies is very limited, in terms of the number of users, the number of transactions and the value mediated. This means that both the positive and the negative effects on the payment market are currently very small.

The retail payments market has changed in recent years as a result of new innovations and new participants. One example of this is virtual currencies. A virtual currency is a means of payment in the form of a digital unit of value. Virtual currencies come in many different forms and are often intended to be used for on-line payments. They have recently received increased media attention. Bitcoin is the clearest example of this.


Virtual currencies do fulfil a function. They can meet new payment requirements and make payments cheaper and safer. However, they do also have disadvantages. The authorities do not regulate the issuance of virtual currencies and the issuers do not come under financial supervision. This means that consumer protection is weak and that users may be exposed to risks.


This Economic Commentary explains what virtual currencies are and discusses the risks connected with them.


Read the Economic Commentary: Have virtual currencies affected the retail payments market?

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