ECB releases public consultation results on digital euro

The European Central Bank (ECB) on Wednesday published the results of its public consultation on a digital euro, highlighting the Europeans’ privacy concerns over the digital currency while revealing a clearer timetable for the project that might take several years.

The consultation was launched by the ECB on Oct. 12, 2020 and concluded on Jan. 12 this year, to assist the central bank’s analysis on whether to proceed with a digital euro project.

The ECB collected a record number of over 8,200 responses, 94 percent of which came from private citizens. The remaining participants were professionals, including banks, payment service providers, merchants and tech companies.

The results showed citizens and professionals alike value privacy most for possible future digital euro, followed by security and the ability to pay across the euro area, the ECB said. Both groups support requirements to avoid illicit activities, with fewer than one in ten responses calling for full anonymity.

More than two-thirds of respondents hope intermediaries provide innovative services that allow access to a digital euro, and indicate it should be integrated into existing banking and payment systems.

Around a quarter of respondents take the view that a digital euro should make cross-border payments faster and cheaper. They want the digital euro to be usable outside the euro area, though with limits, the ECB said.

About a quarter of individual respondents are in favor of end-user solutions comprising smart cards or smartphone features and almost half mention a need for holding limits, tiered remuneration, or a combination of the two, to manage the amount of digital euro in circulation.

“A digital euro can only be successful if it meets the needs and expectations of European citizens,” ECB Executive Board member Fabio Panetta told the European Parliament on Wednesday. He added that although the sample of respondents is not statistically representative of the European population, it offers valuable insights for the ECB’s decision-making.

Panetta said the ECB’s Governing Council will decide in the coming months whether to start a formal investigation phase on a digital euro, which is expected to take around two years.

At the end of the investigation, the Governing Council would take a decision on the design and on whether to move to the implementation. This phase would take another “several years” before the Governing Council decides on whether or not to launch a digital euro.

Previously, policymakers from the ECB, including President Christine Lagarde, estimated that it would take four or five years before the formal launch of a digital euro, if the project is given the green light.