Book Review: Bitcoin and Mobile Payments: Constructing a European Union Framework (Palgrave Studies in Financial Services Technology) edited by Gabriella Gimigliano

This book sheds some light on how Bitcoin and mobile payments interact with EU rules and regulations. A key point certainly are the PSD and PSD2 directives on payment services in the internal market.

Let me try to share with you the main learning points I collected from this book. As always, here it goes my personal disclaimer: the reading of this very personal and non-comprehensive summary by no means replaces the reading of the book it refers to; on the contrary, this post is an invite to read the entire work.

The book has been built into 4 parts:

- Institutional strategy and economic background
The institutional strategy can be an enabling factor for a sound growth of new instruments and certainly for the security of payments. The definition of an effective “cyber security strategy” at national and European level is one of the pillars of the creation of the “digital single market”. The financial services and the payment industry are an essential component. Certainly the role of SEPA (Single Euro Payment Area) is considered. Interestingly, Bitcoin is an alternative payment scheme without fiat or banking money. There is an interesting statement, “Bitcoin has a tendency to create an oligopoly in terms of miners”.

- The framework – a European outline and a comparison with other frameworks
There is a lack of specific regulations in terms of virtual currencies. Can they be considered payment instruments? What are they really? What is the role of self-regulation in all this? In Europe we see a technological fragmentation of the payment chain. It is still too early to know which path will be followed. Experts suggest an adaptation of the laws for newcomers such as bitcoin.

- Regulatory challenges (e.g. protection of customers’ funds, data integrity, soundness of payment and financial system, competitiveness of European market)
A basic requirement is to have an adequate security that encourages the usability of the system. What happens when there is no central service provider? The increasingly stronger general rules for data protection in the EU will eventually require equally strong sector-based rules.
Mobile payments’ legal situation regarding Anti Money-Laundering is legally certain. Virtual currencies’ legislation not.
Interesting detail: Bitcoin does not attract too many VAT complications within the EU.
For the time being, there is a lack of a fully implemented and integrated business model in the mobile payments ecosystem in Europe.

- Evolution of payment services
Only two sentences on this topic. Bitcoin is really a conceptual revolution, mobile payments are really an evolution.

Happy constructing!