French FinTech startup Keplerk's plan to sell bitcoin vouchers at tobacconists around France just became a bit more complicated after the Autorité de Contrôl Prudentiel et de Résolution (ACPR), the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), and the Banque de France issued a joint statement on November 26 recalling the risks associated with the crypto asset.
On Wednesday, November 21, France-based radio station Europe 1 reported that Keplerk would begin selling bitcoin vouchers in 3,000-4,000 tobacco shops around France for 50, 100, and 250 euro amounts, starting in January 2019. The tobacconists would be equipped with software allowing customers to directly purchase the voucher in the shop, which they would then be able to deposit into a wallet on Keplerk's platform, with Keplerk receiving a seven percent commission fee on every transaction. Keplerk's director for strategy and development, Adil Zakhar, told Reuters, "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."
The ACPR, which operates under the Banque de France but is an independent administrative authority, was reported by Europe 1 to have agreed to allow tobacco shops to sell Keplerk's bitcoin vouchers. On the same day as the Europe 1 report, the Banque de France denied the ACPR's involvement, stating, "Contrary to what was said this morning by some radio stations, without prior verification, no agreement has been signed to allow the sale of bitcoin in the tobacconists. No agreement was discussed or considered on the subject."
Today's statement from the ACPR, AMF, and the Banque de France further warns against "investing in these speculative assets" and notes that Keplerk has "a capital of 50000 euros … does not have any authorization or approval by a French or foreign authority, [and] is not likely to provide any guarantee to the customer base."
The statement also highlights Keplerk's choice of company name, asking that it not be confused with "companies approved in France such as Kepler Cheuvreux or Kepler Capital Markets," the former handling financial research and advisory services and the latter handling equity brokerage.