RBI junks digital transaction charges, sets up panel on ATM interchange

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its monetary policy meeting on Thursday announced the waiver of certain digital transaction fees and set up a committee to review the long-disputed automated teller machine (ATM) interchange. 

Waiver of NEFT, RTGS charges

In order to accelerate digital payments in the country, the RBI decided to remove the charges it levied on transactions done under Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) and National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT).

“Banks will be required, in turn, to pass these benefits to their customers. Instructions to banks in this regard will be issued within a week,” said the RBI in its Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies on Thursday. 

RTGS, meant for large-value instantaneous fund transfers, and NEFT, for other fund transfers, are operated by the central bank. The RBI levied minimum charges, which the banks would pass on their customers.

“With the waiver of charges on payment modes like RTGS and NEFT, the RBI is clearly nudging the banks towards increasing digital payments. This will go a long way in encouraging digitisation of payments and enhancing financial inclusion,” said Mandar Agashe, founder and vice-president, Sarvatra Technologies.

Panel formed to review ATM interchange fee structure

The RBI decided to set up a committee involving all stakeholders, under the chairmanship of the chief executive officer of the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), to examine the entire gamut of ATM charges and fees. The committee is expected to submit its recommendations within two months of its first meeting. The composition and terms of reference of the committee will be issued within a week.

“Usage of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) by the public has been growing significantly. There have, however, been persistent demands to change the ATM charges and fees,” it said.

The ATM industry has been campaigning for a rise in interchange for years. The rising cost of operating ATMs against the sticky interchange led to operating ATMs becoming unviable. ATMs numbers have stagnated at 200,000 in the country, with a drop in deployment in the past year. 

“CATMi has been, over the last two years, highlighting how inadequate interchange is hampering the deployment of ATMs in semi-urban and rural areas. We are optimistic that the committee will come up with recommendations to address this critical gap in driving financial inclusion and ensuring the availability of an ATM within a 5-km radius of every citizen in the country,” said K Srinivas, director, Confederation of ATM Industry.

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