BitPay responded to criticism this week over its alleged refusal to do business with an Austin, Texas based firearms seller by releasing a statement that clarifies its terms of service as they apply to certain high risk, highly regulated retailers. The statement, which is printed in full below, reflects continued uncertainty throughout the nascent Bitcoin payments industry as to how Bitcoin can best be employed for transactions with strict, non-financial regulatory requirements, such as firearms or (legal) marijuana sales.
Firearms are among the most tightly regulated consumer items in the United States. Far from being the “anything goes” “merchants of death” that they are often portrayed to be by gun control advocates, gun retailers face a dizzying combination of local, state and federal laws with which they are required to comply. These laws usually carry substantial civil and/or criminal penalties for non-compliance for buyers and sellers alike and are aggressively enforced by federal and state law enforcement agencies.
Though BitPay’s extended due diligence process is likely to be time consuming for retailers, the company deserves a nod for its genuine willingness to consider how to say “yes” to firearms related business. Even if BitPay had made a business decision not to accept firearms retailers, they would hardly be alone in a category that includes eBay, PayPal, Amazon, and other large retailers and service providers outside the Bitcoin community. BitPay’s position as a payment processor for gun sellers likely carries even more risk, given the willingness shown by US authorities to aggressively pursue anyone associated with Bitcoin who appears to be facilitating unlawful activity.
Bitcoin’s strength lies in the fact that no single company or person controls the network or the protocol. Nothing stops a retailer from accepting Bitcoin in payment for any product or service where a willing buyer can be found who has bitcoins to spend. Exchanges and processors make a market for Bitcoin outside the community, but they don’t control who can accept them.
BitPay’s public relations representative issued the following statement in response to Bitcoin Magazine’s inquiries:
“While it’s our policy not to disclose details on our customers, we can share how our process works. All merchants need to complete an application which is verified through our on-boarding process. Some highly regulated industries require additional vetting and compliance review for these merchants to accept bitcoin as a form of payment. Our compliance team has been hard at work exploring ways to make accepting bitcoin a possibility and are evaluating several paths in which BitPay’s compliance standards will be able to onboard merchants and process payments for companies which are in good standing in these regulated industries. The time to work through all the compliance and regulatory guidelines can be lengthy, but BitPay is committed to the review regardless of outcome. “