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Portugal Consumer Watchdog Scolds Bank for Blocking Bitcoin Transactions


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Shortly after revealing a proposal to tax bitcoin investors to make it fair on traditional investors who have to deal with the government taking one-third of their earnings, Portuguese consumer watchdog DECO has stressed that the country’s banks have “no known legal basis” to block bitcoin-related transactions. As CCN recently reported, the Portuguese branch of Spanish bank Santander, Banco Santander Totta, is halting bitcoin-related transactions while claiming cryptocurrency exchanges are transacting in non-regulated financial products.

As reported, the bank is refusing to process transactions to and from popular exchanges like Coinbase and Bitstamp. Speaking to a client, an employee even revealed the existence of an internal directive to block transactions using Coinbase’s IBAN. In response, some of its clients changed banks, while others decided to call in DECO, the Portuguese consumer protection organization, to help them out.

Through an article on its website, DECO addressed the issue by making it clear Santander Totta, to the organization, “has no known legal basis” to support its move. The piece reads (roughly translated):

“Santander’s barriers on international interbank transfers to bank accounts associated with cryptocurrency sites are not supported by any known legal basis.”

The consumer protection organization added that Portugal’s central bank, Banco de Portugal, previously sent them a statement restating bitcoin has no legal framework in the country. As such, bitcoin-related activities are outside the financial institution’s supervision.

The central bank restated its warning against cryptocurrency investments, and added it doesn’t advise people to accept bitcoin payments, as it considers cryptocurrencies a risky investment.

Santander Totta responds

In response to the backlash, Santander Totta sent the press an update on the situation that led some of its clients to change banks. In its response, the bank clarified it didn’t adopt measures against cryptocurrencies or cryptocurrency adopters, while adding it oversses its clients’ operations to ensure it complies with applicable regulations.

Its response reads (roughly translated):

“Banco Santander Totta hasn’t adopted any measures against cryptocurrencies or those who operate with them (…) Naturally not being able to comment on the activity of its clients, Banco Santander Totta reaffirms that it follows all operations carried out within its scope, always complying with supervisory rules and legal regulations applicable to each case.”

As CCN previously stated, there are several digital currency organizations in the European Union Portugal’s central bank authorizes, and Coinbase is one of them.

The central bank has, late last year, issued a warning against OneCoin, the purported altcoin scheme widely believed to be a scam.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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