Canada brings in bitcoin regulations

Canada brings in bitcoin regulations

Canada's parliament has passed a bill bringing in comprehensive regulation of bitcoin and other digital currencies.

The new law means that firms dealing in virtual currencies will be classified as 'money services businesses' and therefore subject to record keeping, verification procedures, suspicious transaction reporting and registration requirements.

Bitcoin dealers will be required to register with Canada's Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Fintrac) and roll out anti-money laundering compliance measures. Banks will be banned from offering services to firms that do not register with Fintrac.

The new legislation covers not only Canadian virtual currency dealers, such as exchange operators and ATM networks, but also bitcoin companies from outside of the country that serve Canadians.

Christine Duhaime, senior financial crime advisor at consultancy MNP, says: "Part of the concern with such laws is whether they strike a balance between combating financial crime and supporting innovative technology development. The concern is that venture capital for Bitcoin start-ups may dry up if legislative obligations prove to be too onerous or expensive."

Meanwhile, California lawmakers have also been looking into bitcoin, passing a bill to make using the currency easier. The bill would repeal a law prohibiting commerce using anything but US currency. It now goes to Governor Jerry Brown, who will approve or veto it.

Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 24 June, 2014, 11:41Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Congratulations Canada for making a stand and creating policy specifically related to the use of digital currencies like BTC. Most countries around the world cite only one defence for not offering specifc legislation and that is that no currency other than that issued by the central bank is legal in that country.

The 'illegal by default' taken by many countries is not offering cloear guidelines to  businesses or seeking to protect their economies.  We can expect more countries to speak up soon on this matter - and rightly so - because BTC is here to stay and the immense potential of a global currency for improving trade etc need to be explored not ignored. 

By setting the groundrules there is a risk of burdening tech start ups with the same kind of regulatory and compliance overhead as banks face, but isn't that the fair approach? Banks bear significant compliance costs and the absence of this amongst startups gives them an unfair advantage. Encouraging innnovation is of utmost importance but preventing money laundering and jeopardising economic stability are surely of far greater  consequecnce.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 26 June, 2014, 13:52Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I completely agree with Sian Bentley on regulating all, not just Bitcoin, digital currencies. The man/woman in the street who would like to use a digital currency, would appreciate a proper regulatory framework that involves transparency, accountability and security. These arragements will only encourage others to want to use it and as a consequence, lead to Bitcoin being regarded as both safe, useful and potentially cheaper to use than your local bank. It is questionable if there would be a need for a future international covenant covering virtual currencies. Canada is to be applauded for at least making a constructive start in regulating digital currencies. Other jurisdictions should be encouraged to follow suit. Nobody knows where virtual currencies are headed, but I have a feeling that they could be an untapped cashless resource that could be of economic and social benefit on a global scale.