Trade group chief eyes Bitcoin

The head of a top financial trade group says that companies he represents are growing comfortable with the virtual currency Bitcoin.

The Electronic Transactions Association, which represents companies like Visa and MasterCard, has already welcomed one Bitcoin company into its fold, and companies might be more inclined to support the virtual currency in the future, chief executive Jason Oxman told CoinDesk

“I think it will continue to happen going forward,” he told the Bitcoin news outlet in an interview.

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“At bottom, our industry is in the business of facilitating electronic transactions, and those electronic transactions are going to take the form of whatever the customer or merchant of choice agrees is going to be the form of their electronic transaction,” he added.

Bitcoins only exist virtually but can be exchanged for cash or used to pay for goods and services at some companies.

Supporters say they can revolutionize the way that people pay for things and transfer money across the globe, and major Wall Street firms have started to take notice.

Oxman told CoinDesk that his industry learned from the way record companies responded to music downloading service Napster when it first debuted, and are trying to take the opposite approach.  

Critics of Bitcoin and similar virtual currencies have worried that fluctuation in the value of the bitcoin could be bad for consumers. They have also pointed to money launderers and criminals who use bitcoins to hide their money.

Regulators in the U.S. have so far taken a relatively hands-off approach, which Oxman said was important for the currency to mature.  

“I do think that it’s important to sound a cautionary note that regulators should not apply reflexive rules just because something is new,” he said.