Fabio Panetta, an executive board member of the European Central Bank, said focus groups exploring the potential rollout of a digital euro hinted the ability to use the digital currency at online and physical stores could be a key feature.
In a written statement released Wednesday, Panetta broke down the findings of ECB focus groups on digital payment methods commissioned in September 2021, which suggested people were more likely to accept a digital euro accepted in physical and online stores and allowed easy person-to-person payments. According to Panetta, all merchants would need to accept a digital euro to see adoption trends like those the fiat euro experienced 20 years ago.
“The introduction of euro banknotes made it possible for us to pay with physical euros anywhere in the euro area,” said Panetta. “So it is no surprise that people expect to be able to use the digital complement to banknotes wherever they can pay digitally or online.”
Findings from the focus groups also hinted that many members of the general public and merchants were unfamiliar with a digital euro and feared that cash was being phased out as the number of use cases for the technology increased. However, once the concept was explained to them, members of the focus group from the general public said being “widely accepted in all kinds of physical shops and online” was the most desirable feature for a digital euro, while merchants suggested high demand would be their biggest driver.
Panetta added that the ECB would consider these features alongside concerns over privacy in response to the public consultations the central bank conducted between October 2020 and January 2021. He said the ECB would conduct another round of focus groups on the digital euro toward the end of 2022, providing data that could be used to determine relevant policies:
“We are getting a clearer picture of what citizens and merchants want, so we can finetune all the design features of a digital euro before any potential issuance. And co-legislators have a key role to play, for instance to enable greater privacy.”
Related: EU finance chief says digital euro bill coming in early 2023
The European Central Bank has been exploring the development of a digital euro as interest in central bank digital currencies seems to be growing across the world. The Central Bank of the Bahamas was the first nation to release a CBDC in October 2020. China began trials of its digital yuan in 2020, later making it available to international athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.