For the first time in its history, Ecommerce Europe hosted the Global Ecommerce Summit, which took place in Barcelona from 12 – 14 June. As part of its newly redesigned integrated program, Ecommerce Europe hosted four dedicated policy discussions on consumer policies, VAT, digital currencies and blockchain and parcel delivery in the aptly named Policy Arena.
With the online payments industry, facilitated by evermore sophisticated technological advancements, undergoing rapid and fundamental changes, Ecommerce Europe asked its panel of legislators, innovators and entrepreneurs on how the rise of digital currencies and blockchain would change the e-commerce sector of the future.
“Blockchain has great potential for e-commerce and the Digital Single Market”
The potential role of digital currencies and blockchain technology has increasingly become a hot topic in e-commerce and the wider digital economy, with an increasing number of financial and government institutions investing in research and the development of blockchain solutions. Blockchain technology, a distributed, de-centralized database that maintains a continuously growing list of ordered records called blocks, is both highly temper resistant and inherently traceable and transparent. As such, many industries and entrepreneurs consider the technology as the natural next step for record management activities, identity management, transaction processing, supply chain management and the provision of data provenance.
In her opening intervention, Jasmin Battista, Head of e-commerce in the European Commission’s DG Connect, agreed with the great potential of blockchain for online merchants and the EU’s wider Digital Single Market, adding that the technology had the power to simplify and democratize many different forms of transactions. With regard to the e-commerce sector, the European Commission saw the rising use of so-called smart contracts as one of the main benefits to online merchants.
Vince Meens, Blockchain Entrepreneur at Brightlands, added that, while the technology to support the wide use of blockchains is available today, both the market and regulators should put emphasis on ensuring organization, transparency and trust. As the founder of Dutch virtual currency exchange platform Nocks, Roel Boer agreed, adding that the core interest in blockchain is social, rather than technological.
Great potential for a global digital currency
According to Vince Meens, the future of electronic payments lies in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. For e-commerce in particular, Roel Boer added, virtual currencies ensured both instant payment, traceability and lower costs than the use of traditional card schemes.
While Bitcoin is the most widely known digital currency on the market, there currently exist around 800 different cryptocurrencies. Yet, Radoslav Albrecht, Founder and CEO of P2P Bitcoin Lending Platform Bitbond, believes that, in time, we will see a single, universally accepted, global digital currency replacing the currently fragmented market.
Optimistic, but challenges remain
While all panelists were convinced and optimistic about the transformative nature of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies to the e-Payments landscape, they acknowledged that challenges related to trust, consumer rights legislation, data privacy and anti-money laundering persisted. Among others, these challenges are currently under scrutiny by the European Commission’s taskforce on FinTech which is considering regulatory measures to be presented in 2018.