Greek crisis: Bitcoin, iTunes and App Store problems [Updated]

7 Jul 2015

Things just aren’t getting any better for Greece at the moment, with the political and economic turmoil over there having huge effects on how people pay for things.

Last Friday, Buzzfeed reported on Greek people’s inability to buy products on iTunes, even for €0.99, following restrictions on how money can be spent.

Now it seems that those wily enough to shift away from euros and dive into the world of online currencies are facing their own problems.

Last week, Coinbase stated that it was waiving fees for customers buying Bitcoin with euros. However, due to a software update, delays of several hours between Bitcoin transactions are causing difficulties.

‘I don’t know if it has happened to this extent before, as Bitcoin is so much bigger now’

It’s actually a weird problem, to do with how Bitcoin’s decentralised system means users update to the latest version as they see fit. So, people trading with different updates of Bitcoin are throwing it all off kilter.

More money more problems

And there are a lot more people trading in Bitcoin nowadays. Nearly 120,000 Bitcoin transactions took place on a single day in early June, up 10 times from June 2011, according to CoinDesk.

Analysts predict that the software issue will be fixed soon, but this isn’t the first case of Bitcoin’s model causing issues.

“But I don’t know that it’s happened to this extent, because Bitcoin has never been this big,” said Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

This growth is something that was predicted a week ago, in the lead-up to Greece’s recent referendum. The Guardian reported of an expected surge in popularity for web currencies like Bitcoin.

“In theory, when the conventional financial system is experiencing turbulence, alternative currencies such as Bitcoin should have their time to shine,” read the report.

Can’t control Bitcoin, can control cash

“The decentralised nature of the currency means that it’s impossible for any central bank to impose controls on it, while the pseudonymity at its core could make it the perfect vehicle to get money into and out of the country while avoiding legal reprisals.”

Of course, the issue with spending money outside of Greece’s borders poses other frustrations for Greeks.

The Greek government brought in state controls to stop any flow of currency out of the country. This means, for example, that Greeks can remove just €60 a day from ATMs, while tourists can withdraw ten times that.

It also means, though, that they have halted many payments made by Greek credit cards onto international services.

This means that Apple’s App Store, for example, is off limits.

*Update, 9.30 am, 8 July*

Since the publication of this article, PayPal – which was originally included in the headline of the article – has supplied us with a statement on its activities in Greece:

“PayPal aims to continue serving our valued customers in Greece in full, as we have for over a decade in this country. We are carefully monitoring the situation in Greece and progress of negotiations between the Greek government and its lenders.

“Due to the recent decisions of the Greek authorities on capital controls, funding of PayPal wallet from Greek bank accounts, as well as cross-border transactions funded by any cards or bank accounts are currently not available. Payment attempts may also be declined by the card issuer or banking institution. Other PayPal services, including receiving payments remain available.”

Main image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic