This is, I suppose, a legal question so I should point out that I'm most interested in US and European law.
I made a payment to a company for a product more than a year ago in bitcoin. The amount that I paid then was equivalent to $75. Now the company has failed to provide the product and they and I both agree that I'm owed a refund. However, we disagree on the means.
The company wants to refund me - in bitcoin if I wish it - to the value of $75 of today's money. It seems to me though that I should be refunded what I paid: i.e. the same BTC value that I paid. The value of bitcoin has increased substantially since I made my original payment, meaning that the BTC amount I paid then is now worth 5-6 times more.
I happen to know (through their blog posts) that the company in question does keep stocks of bitcoin rather than converting them to a fiat currency, so they have benefited from this. That said, I don't think it should matter either way.
You can consider bitcoin in one of two ways: a) a currency or b) not a currency. The conclusion is the same either way. Let's explore both:
a) BTC is a currency
If BTC is a currency then this is an easy question. I should be refunded what I paid, in the currency in which I paid it.
b) BTC is not a currency
If a bitcoin is not currency then is it unarguably an asset. Surely in this case I have given a valuable asset to the company as my end of an implied contract for them to provide the goods. Given their failure to provide the goods, they must return the asset: not a fraction of it.
I think that, regardless of the legal side, it's fair for me to receive a full refund. Given that bitcoin has increased in value, one of us has to profit from this. It seems very unfair to me that the company should profit from their failure, whilst at the same time preventing me from making that profit myself.
I appreciate that I'm not exactly neutral in this, so I'd like to know what others think. Am I being reasonable? If I am, do I have a legal leg to stand on?
Having read through the responses, they seem to have one or both of two themes.
- "The price wasn't in BTC, it was in dollars with the option to pay this via bitcoin."
- "Being able to claim a refund of the original BTC amount would open the door to risk-free speculation."
For the first, this is open to interpretation. If I was being pernickety, I'd probably say this was down to the wording of the sale. However I agree that - practically - it's pretty obvious that $75 was the price and BTC was a payment method, along with Visa, Paypal etc.
The concept of "legal tender" is one that was raised too. For something to be "legal tender'' means that one may not refuse an offer to pay a debt with that currency. It doesn't talk about refunds though: if I'm owed €1000 by someone in the US then I must accept the dollar equivalent even if I'd rather Euros. This is still €1000 though, not "whatever €1000 was worth when I entered the agreement.''
For the second, that is indisputable and probably represents the biggest flaw in my position. I would point out that the refund is not my doing: I would rather have received my order but the company cancelled it. However, that probably makes no difference ultimately.
Thanks for all the opinions. It looks like the overwhelming consensus is that I am being unreasonable, so I'll give up on my demands and accept the refund.