Federal Council publishes report on virtual currencies such as bitcoin

Bern, 25.06.2014 - During its meeting today, the Federal Council adopted a report on the use of virtual currencies. It decided not to propose new statutory provisions, as virtual currencies like bitcoin are of only marginal economic significance and are not in a legal vacuum. Nevertheless, the competent authorities and consumer protection organisations should urge users to exercise caution when using bitcoins.

The report explains that the economic importance of virtual currencies like bitcoin as a means of payment is fairly insignificant at the moment and the Federal Council believes that this will not change in the foreseeable future.

The report demonstrates that virtual currencies carry substantial risks of loss and abuse for users but that they are not in a legal vacuum: contracts with virtual currencies are enforceable in principle and penalties can be imposed for criminal offences. Certain business models based on virtual currencies are subject to financial market laws and need to be subjected to financial market supervision. Professional trading in virtual currencies and the operation of trading platforms in Switzerland generally come under the scope of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. This includes compliance with the obligation to verify the identity of the contracting party and establish the identity of the beneficial owner.

At the international level, there is not yet a uniform approach for dealing with virtual currencies. There are no international standards either. Accordingly, the challenges posed by virtual currencies have not been addressed uniformly up to now.

Given that virtual currencies are a marginal phenomenon and are not in a legal vacuum, the Federal Council sees no need for legislative measures to be taken at the moment. It is continuing to monitor developments in the area of virtual currencies in order for any need for action to be identified at an early stage. It recommends that the competent authorities and consumer protection organisations urge users to exercise caution when using bitcoins.

With the report, the Federal Council has responded to two postulates referred by the National Council in 2013 and 2014. The report was prepared under the leadership of the Federal Department of Finance (FDF) in collaboration with the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), the Swiss National Bank (SNB) and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

Address for enquiries

Mario Tuor, Communications, State Secretariat for International Financial Matters SIF
Tel. +41 58 462 46 16, mario.tuor@sif.admin.ch


The Federal Council

Federal Department of Finance