One of the reasons for starting BittyBot was because it was so difficult to buy Bitcoins in the United Kingdom compared to our friends in the US and Europe. The problem was that all the big exchanges with the most liquidity only traded in US Dollars or Euros, resulting in slow International or EU (SEPA) bank transfers and increased costs due to fees and currency exchange rates.
There was one exception – Mt. Gox, which traded BTC for GBP, and we all know what happened there. Even before the collapse, Mt. Gox had its Barclays bank account frozen so no one could deposit funds.
This difficulty in obtaining Bitcoins lead to the rise of Bitcoin merchants such as Bittylicious and QuickBitcoin in the UK which endeavoured to make the process as quick and simple as possible, and also the growth of Bitcoin person-to-person marketplaces such as LocalBitcoins and BitBargain which handle the largest volume of Bitcoin trades in the UK.
Hostility from UK banks towards Bitcoin exchanges, or for that matter any Bitcoin related business has resulted in one Bitcoin exchange, Bit121, having to close its doors back in March and other exchanges having to find ways to circumvent the UK banks. In Bitcoin We Trust (IBWT) bypassed the banks by allowing customers to deposit GBP as cash via Royal Mail Special Delivery.
Coinfloor, which after a stop-start beginning, opened its doors to traders in March this year had to use a Polish bank account for deposits. This account was in GBP which reduced fiat exchange rates but still meant your bank would charge you for an International Transfer.
With the recent Isle of Man announcement it looks like the tide is finally turning for UK Bitcoin exchanges, and other UK Bitcoin startups:
The Isle of Man recognises both the risks and opportunities presented by digital and virtual currencies. We are conscious of issues that have surrounded these activities but also can identify serious and credible entrants to the market wishing to explore this innovative technology. Therefore, the Government has instructed the relevant departments and statutory bodies to ensure there is a regime that promotes both business opportunities but also applies appropriate anti-money laundering requirements.
Coinfloor was quick to move their deposit account to a Lloyds TSB offshore account located on the Isle of Man. This allowed customers to deposit GBP using UK bank transfer without any transfer fees.
Hot on the heals of Coinfloor was a completely new exchange, CoinCorner, the first cryptocurrency exchange registered on the Isle on Man, trading not only BTC but also Litecoin and Doge for GBP. So finally, buying or selling Bitcoins using an exchange is a viable option for UK residents, although it’s something geared towards the more savvy Bitcoin user for larger trades. You will also need your identity verified by the exchange to comply with Anti-Money Laundering (ALM) and Know You Customer (KYC) regulations.
With this change in sentiment it made sense for BittyBot to start listing prices from UK exchanges for comparison. (While CoinCorner are based on the Isle of Man, which is not technically in the UK, they do allow UK residents to trade in GBP and via UK bank accounts.)
The UK Bitcoin exchange prices are listed in a separate section to the existing marketplaces and merchants as it did not make sense to compare prices with exchanges as you have to take into consideration the transaction fees, deposit fees, minimum deposit and withdrawal fees, all of which are also listed.
So who will be next to get an offshore bank account to cater for UK customers? Could it be Bitstamp, which is based in the UK but currently only trades in USD? Rumour is that Coinbase will shortly be allowing UK residents to register – if this happens it could really shake up the market.
Whatever happens you can guarantee BittyBot will be adding new UK exchanges as they come online for comparison and to help you find where the best Bitcoin prices are.