Continuing its open ear policy towards digital currency, the Canadian Senate last week held an in-depth Q&A with an industry spokesperson on the topic of handling Bitcoin in the long-term.

Echoing Andreas Antonopoulos’ appearance last October, Samir Saadi sat before the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce to field a variety of queries relating to how best to handle the issue of regulation and public exposure to cryptocurrency.

Saadi, a lecturer at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, highlighted recent involvement of the traditional finance industry in Bitcoin, and indicated the need to provide constructive regulation to achieve a balance between safety and space for innovation.

He explained in his opening statement:

“The bitcoin community, from what I read, is looking for regulations to legitimize their business.  So if you regulate it, you give more legitimacy and credentials […] in the long run there will be more and more users of bitcoins, so the volume will go up, and this will stabilize the volatility in the long run.”

The issue of the ‘need’ for regulation within the cryptocurrency industry remains a source of contention among many of its players. While Saadi suggests that regulation “is what they’re [the Bitcoin community] looking for,” his focus contradicted that of Antonopoulos just months earlier, the latter highlighting the dangers of attempting to regulate decentralized mechanisms.

“So I think that removing ambiguity in that particular arena for personal use would be enormously useful,” Antonopoulos had stated, referring solely to the issue of tax status. For business, he advocated a wait-and-see approach, arguing that “[w]hen properly architected, bitcoin financial services are not vulnerable to central pointing of failure which would necessitate heavy handed oversight and regulation.”

Refunds and ‘anonymity’

On the topic of consumer protection, Saadi continued his alternative perspective by arguing the need to develop new mechanisms which would allow some form of – notably centralized – control.

“I think there's a lot of opportunity here. For example, you can protect consumers, because there's lots of risk there and many people are scared,” he continued. “An example would be to allow the consumer to get his money back, refunded. I know so far it's difficult for transactions to be tracked, and also to get your money back, but the bitcoin community is looking at some of them, creating these kinds of online ways of buying goods.”

Such a premise would appear difficult to implement in practice, and the extent of Saadi’s knowledge in comparison to Antonopoulos is conspicuous in statements regarding the “anonymity” of Bitcoin as something which attracts users to the currency.

He adds however that there is “still a debate” as to the extent to which such measures are possible, while acknowledging that as a consumer, he had never used bitcoin to make a purchase.

Reactions to Saadi have been mixed, with commentators praising his constructive perspective yet criticizing certain remarks.

“This professor is not an expert in digital currencies but seems to be pursuing academic research on them,” a popular Reddit response surmises.

Nonetheless, the session reveals the continued desire of the Senate committee to entertain cryptocurrency as an issue requiring attention. Whether Saadi’s appearance was an attempt to hear a range of perspectives on the issue, and whether Antonopoulos’ warnings have been heeded, however, is not yet clear. 

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