TOKYO — Some Japanese retailers and restaurants that accept bitcoin are considering halting transactions using the digital currency, which faces a potential split amid competing plans for its future.
Restaurant chain Heichinrou and electronics retailer Bic Camera partner with digital currency exchange bitFlyer to accept bitcoin as payment. But the Japan-based exchange announced Wednesday that it may temporarily stop bitcoin transactions if the currency seems likely to split when new software is activated Aug. 1. If not enough users adopt the upgrade, there will effectively be two incompatible versions of bitcoin.
The halt would last from around 10 p.m. on July 31 to about Aug. 2. Both Heichinrou and Bic Camera plan to stop accepting bitcoin should bitFlyer shut down its services.
Bitcoinmall, an e-commerce site that only accepts digital currencies, also feels pressed to respond. Its operating company, BitChange, is considering suspending bitcoin transactions for several days starting around Aug. 1. “We will rely instead on monacoin and other virtual currencies for a while,” the chief executive said.
But many online and physical stores are hesitant to announce their plans too early, since it is unclear whether bitcoin will actually split and necessitate a halt to transactions. “We don’t want to unnecessarily confuse our customers,” said a representative at an e-commerce site.
Bitcoin has many positive characteristics, such as its ability to be traced to past transactions. Eyeglass retailer Meganesuper has begun accepting the currency, expecting it will become more popular in coming years.
Retailers at this point are expected to see little impact from halting bitcoin payments, since most of their business is conducted in cash or credit card. But the ongoing controversy could damage the currency’s image, like the bankruptcy of leading exchange Mt. Gox in 2014, and drive potential users away.