Bitcoin is set to become more available than ever to consumers in France, with local tobacconists expected to begin selling cryptocurrency over the counter for the first time in 2019.
According to reports emerging in local media, the scheme will see tobacco sellers offering up vouchers denominated in 50, 100 and 250 euros, which will be available for sale from January 1, 2019.
The project is the brainchild of a local cryptocurrency startup, Keplerk, which has secured an arrangement with the developer of cash register software to deliver the voucher transactions.
Consumers will be able to use the vouchers for bitcoin transactions, which can be stored within a secure Keplerk wallet. The vouchers each have a unique PIN code, which can be used to top up the wallet with credit or to send payments in bitcoin.
The scheme will be rolled out across up to 4000 tobacconists in the first wave, with more expected to be added as the scheme is rolled out nationally.
Director of strategy at Keplerk, Adil Zakhar, said tobacco shops were already familiar to customers as an outlet for purchasing vouchers.
“Tobacco shop owners are the best channel as they are trusted by customers and they are used to sell vouchers such as credit for mobile phones.”
Transactions will carry a 7% commission charged by Keplerk to fund the system, which could pave the way for nationwide offline consumer access to bitcoin – an essential step towards mass adoption of bitcoin as a payment method.
Nationwide, there are over 25,000 tobacconists that could support the bitcoin POS, which could see bitcoin become used more frequently in day-to-day transactions.
Tobacconists already retail credit for mobile phones and domestic energy, as well as facilitating a range of payment services in branch.
If successful, the scheme could be rolled out to other retailers, including supermarkets and other retail outlets.
The news comes at a time of challenging market conditions for bitcoin prices, which have continued to fall over the last couple of weeks.
With schemes like this set to increase consumer demand for bitcoin, it remains to be seen whether continued real-world usage dampens the current market volatility.