eBay UK to allow Bitcoin trades, but only in classifieds for now

eBay UK is setting opening up its website to Bitcoin buyers and sellers, but is still keeping the virtual currency at arm's length.

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eBay's UK arm will reportedly allow Bitcoin trading on its site, but it's keeping the virtual currency at a distance for now.

Amid claims that eBay is "anti-Bitcoin" after the auction site banned the sale of Bitcoin-mining hardware known as ASICs, the company is shifting its stance on virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin and others.

From February 10 eBay UK will allow merchants to trade Bitcoin and similar currencies in a special 'Virtual Currency' category — but only in classified ad format.

An email recently posted to Reddit, purportedly from an eBay merchant whose account was suspended over a violation of eBay's currency policy, states:

"Please know that per our recent policy update, Virtual Currency (ie Bitcoin and Litecoin), whether digitally or physically delivered, cannot be listed in auction-style or Buy-It-Now listing formats. eBay is opening a Virtual Currency category to allow the sale of virtual currency in Classified Ads format on February 10, 2014. We request that you do not list these items until that date. Please be informed that repeated breach of the policy may further jeopardize your account status. To avoid any inconvenience in future, we'd appreciated it if you go through our help pages or contact us before listing any such items."

eBay UK's existing list of policies does specifically mention virtual currencies. Instead, the only policy on currency relates to counterfeit currency and stamps.

ZDNet has asked eBay UK for comment on the new virtual currency category, and will update the story if any is forthcoming. However, a company spokesperson told virtual currency site CoinDesk that the company will be updating its Currency Policy to clarify that Bitcoins must be listed in the new Virtual Currency category in the classified ad format.

Though it's a sign eBay is warming to Bitcoin, restricting virtual currency trades to classifieds means buyers and sellers deal directly with each other, as opposed to making transactions through eBay's auction-style or Buy-it-Now formats, which are completed through eBay itself.

Perhaps the bigger question for eBay is how its payment arm PayPal will deal with Bitcoin, which could be a threat to the company — or equally an opportunity, given PayPal's history of navigating payment system regulations across the globe. 

eBay CEO John Donahoe caused a stir last year when he said the company was "looking at Bitcoin closely". PayPal president David Marcus has since gone further, claiming in a recent tweet that "we're believers in BTC". 

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