SBP Makes Online Payments Free for All Commercial Banks

In order to curtail the risk of the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and limit the physical interaction of citizens at the branch level, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has waived off transactional charges on various modes of online payments for customers on a temporary basis to be effective from March 20.

Customers can now make banking transactions without any charges for fund transfer, utility bills payments, tax submission, mobile top-ups and etc.

According to a circular issued by SBP, commercial and microfinance banks shall waive all charges for customers using their online fund transfer services including Intra and Interbank Fund Transfers (IBFT) till further instructions.

Banks/MFBs shall waive the transaction charges on RTGS customer transfers (MT 102 and MT103). In this regard, SBP has also waived charges on such transactions with immediate effect till further instructions.

It has been decided that fees earned on all online bill payment services including utility bill payments, mobile top-ups, and collection of taxes and duties shall be shared equally between Banks/MFBs and the concerned PSO.

Banks Advised To Ensure Availability of Effective Digital Banking Channels

SBP advised commercial, microfinance banks and payment service providers to ensure 24/7 availability of all Alternate Delivery Channels (ADCs) including ATMs, POS, internet banking, payment gateways, mobile banking and call centers for customers.

Banks/MFBs/PSO/PSPs shall enhance vigilance on digital channels and increase monitoring on cyber threat actors taking advantage of the situation to conduct email, ransomware attacks, phishing, etc. In this regard, all 1Link member Banks/MFBs are advised to urgently deploy Fraudulent Transaction Dispute Handling (FTDH) systems and strictly adhere to timelines for resolution of fraudulent transactions.

Banks/MFBs are advised to ensure meticulous compliance of the above instructions within the stipulated time, failing which will attract penal action under relevant laws.

New Initiatives

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has instructed commercial and microfinance banks including payment service providers to enable digital collection of all challans/invoice based payments such as education fees.

Banks should offer loan repayment facility to the customers through online/digital channels.

To facilitate Banks/MFBs, the requirement of biometric verification for customers to activate the internet and mobile banking is suspended till further instructions. However, Banks/MFBs shall ensure:

  • Customer authentication and verification using appropriate measures.
  • Safety and security of customer transactions.

Banks are also advised to ensure that call centers/helplines are available 24/7 for instant customer support for issues relating to all ADCs including ATMs, POS machines, Internet Banking, Mobile Banking, etc. The media campaigns shall clearly mention the contact details of their helpline/call centers.

Banks shall run campaigns on print, electronic and social media to create awareness and promote the use of Alternate Delivery Channels (ADCs) to limit the use of currency notes and minimizing branch visits.

The new measures taken by the central bank might be tough for the commercial and microfinance banks but this is a major opportunity to push their customers to get the experience of digital banking channels with incentives like free of cost service available without biometric verification at home.

Banks should educate their customers through short videos on social media on the use of safe online banking service, noted SBP.

It is also hoped that customers’ visits to bank branches will reduce in the coming days whereas the use of digital banking channels will improve to a great extent for a longer period of time.