Pi cryptocurrency accepted by retail shops despite dubious legality

By Bao Lam   July 21, 2023 | 06:28 am PT
Pi cryptocurrency accepted by retail shops despite dubious legality
A cafe that accepts payment for drinks in cryptocurrency Pi. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam
In a café in the central province of Quang Ngai, customers can buy a drink by paying 0.049 Pi, a cryptocurrency from the Pi Network, currently under investigation.

The café owner said he joined the Pi Network in 2021, and has been accepting this cryptocurrency as payment since last year.

Cryptocurrencies are not recognized as a legitimate means of payment in Vietnam. The State Bank of Vietnam has warned that owning, trading and using cryptocurrencies are risky and not protected by law.

The Minh in Quang Binh has a shop selling used phones and computers that accepts payments in Pi. He said: "50-80% of the payment should be in cash, and the rest can be paid with 500-2,000 Pi depending on the configuration, model and age."

Since July 2022 users have been able to transfer Pi between accounts.

According to the administrator of a Facebook group with 200,000 members, the topic of "exchanging Pi for goods" has heated up in recent months due to the appearance of many websites abroad allowing the exchange of goods on the basis of "consensus."

"To bypass regulators, the two sides ‘give’ Pi to each other and thank each other with a gift, or ‘consensus exchange’, not a transaction, sale or payment," the administrator said.

Others use this technique to order products, including electronic devices such as phones, computers and cameras from abroad, mainly from China, by "depositing" Pi. Goods after arriving in Vietnam will be partially paid in Pi and the rest in cash.

Sellers usually accept no more than 50% in Pi for small-value items and 15% for large ones. Cryptocurrencies not being legal tender in Vietnam, issuing, trading or using one for payment can result in a fine of up to VND100 million (US$4,240)

But no one has been fined so far.

In late June Le Xuan Minh, vice head of the Department of the Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention said police in many places localities were particularly monitoring Pi-related activities.

There have been signs that people are being coerced by cryptocurrency developers into business models resembling pyramid schemes, he said.

The Pi Network came into existence in 2019 and saw a boom in Vietnam in 2021. Critics have said it lacks the transparency associated with blockchain, and could be used for nefarious purposes like fraud and data collection.

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