US retailer Overstock plans to become one of the first major businesses to accept virtual currency Bitcoin.
Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne told the Financial Times that the company intends to accept Bitcoin payments during the second quarter of 2014.
“If there’s going to be some part of the population which adopts it...I think that we’ll get that business. And the people who switch to it will respect that we started adopting it,” Byrne said.
Nasdaq-listed Overstock, which launched in 1999, recorded over $1 billion in revenues last year.
Bitcoin is a form of unregulated digital money which is not issued by a central bank, with 12.15m currently in circulation. The virtual currency is ‘mined’ by computers solving a difficult mathematical problem with a 64-digit solution, and can be bought and sold on peer-to-peer exchanges such as MTGox.
It is accepted by a number of Internet sites including WordPress and Reddit, but while there has been some uptake with some smaller merchants the currency has not received the backing of a major retailer up to now.
There had been speculation that Ebay would begin to accept Bitcoin after the company posted a video explaining how the virtual currency works. However the retailer claimed it was “strictly informational”.
Regulators have raised concerns about the use of Bitcoin, with the European Banking Authority last week issuing a warning to consumers that they are not protected when 'digital wallets' are hacked or an exchange goes bust.
“Currently, no specific regulatory protections exist in the EU that would protect consumers from financial losses if a platform that exchanges or holds virtual currencies fails or goes out of business,” a statement read.
The value of Bitcoin plummeted 60 percent this week following a decision by Chinese regulators to ban banks from using the currency, leading to mass withdrawals.