El Salvador’s Bitcoin Wallet Users Face Breakdowns and High Fees
The usage of cryptocurrencies as legal tender has been in effect in El Salvador since September 7, and customer concerns have continued to mount over that time. Taxes have been paid using the virtual Chivo Wallet, according to the country’s treasury department, totaling $30,000 since the Ministry of Finance approved the payment of taxes, including VAT, income tax and import charges, with bitcoin beginning the week of October 18.
Treasury stated in a statement that in order to make the payment, the user must scan the QR code produced at the payment window. In a tweet, the Treasury said that “In our tax offices, you may pay fast and conveniently with your @chivowallet.” The persistent failures of the government’s much-anticipated bitcoin wallet, however, have put a shadow over the process of making tax payments, and users have not been shy about speaking out about it.
The site has been the target of fraudsters who have claimed to be able to resolve technical difficulties on the platform, causing users to lose large sums of money in the process. Other alleged issues include the appropriation of the Unique Identity Document, incompatibility with other wallets, and the need for continuing technological repair.
In response to numerous complaints, including instances in which citizens’ personal information has been stolen in order to obtain the $30 worth of free bitcoin Salvadorans receive for signing up for the wallet, several opposition parties, including the ARENA, FMLN, Nuestro Tiempo, and VAMOS, filed a citation calling on the legal representative of the company, Chivo S.A. de C.V., to appear before the National Assembly and answer questions about the ongoing issue of free bitcoin in El Salvador.
Users have also expressed dissatisfaction with the government for charging such hefty commission costs on each purchase. Using social media, one user claimed that the government was stealing his or her money, an accusation that some may argue is not far-fetched given that the government had previously stated that there would be no fees or commissions for sending or receiving remittances, making or receiving payments, or converting bitcoin to dollars or vice versa when promoting the wallet.
To make matters worse, the recent slew of wallet-related complaints is being connected to a limitation Chivo has placed on the wallet in order to curtail a practice known as scalping. Carlos Palomo, an information technology expert and president of the Transparency, Social Comptroller, and Open Data Association (Tracoda), has stated that the changes are in direct violation of the Bitcoin Law and will cost users a significant amount of money because they will have to wait a minimum of three minutes between bitcoin trades.
It was important, according to Chivo, to remove the price-freezing option because it allowed customers to examine bitcoin prices on other exchanges before choosing whether to sell or purchase, allowing them to benefit illegally from bitcoin deals. On the plus side, traders at the San Salvador Handicraft Market, one of the country’s most significant hubs for small company commerce, have emphasized the prospects that bitcoin payments via the country’s state-backed wallet provide for small Salvadoran retailers.
In other news, the government has taken advantage of a recent drop in the price of bitcoin to acquire 420 extra bitcoins at a cost of around $25 million, which was previously allowed by the National Assembly.