Pick n Pay successfully trials Bitcoin as payment

Cape Town - Pick n Pay, one of South Africa’s largest retailers, has successful trialed letting customers pay for groceries using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. 

The retailer, together with tech companies Electrum and Luno, piloted letting staff pay for groceries via Bitcoin at its head office in Cape Town.

"We designed a process from user registration, tender acceptance at point of sale to funds authorisation, currency exchange in real time during the transaction and instant payment settlement,” said Richard van Rensburg, Pick n Pay's deputy CEO.

The pilot programme was limited to one store and is no longer active.

While Pick n Pay did not say whether, or when, every-day customers would be able to pay with Bitcoin at its stores, Van Rensburg described the cryptocurrency as a "game changer for the retail industry".   

“Our pilot resulted in a transaction that was safe - there is no cash risk and no card fraud risk,” he said. 

Early days

Van Rensburg said that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (there are hundreds more) were still in "relative infancy" but would in time be accepted by the retail industry. 

"It will take some time before they become widely accepted as a form of tender. Progress is unlikely to be hampered by technology, but rather by regulatory issues and concerns," he said. 

He said the pilot was also conducted to give the company's new point of sale technology a test run.  

An "open interface" at the point of sale - where customers pay - would enable third party providers to "bring new services and capabilities to our customers,” he said, but did not provide details.   

Cape Town-based software company Electrum helped set up the system to process the payments. 

"The checkout process is as simple as scanning a QR code using a Bitcoin wallet app on the customer’s smartphone," it said in a blog post on its website. 

Electrum said the Bitcoin infrastructure for the project was provided by Luno.

Previously known as BitX, Luno allows people to buy and sell Bitcoin and store the cryptocurrency in its Luno wallet. 

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