RBI says reviewing ATM outage circular after bank’s feedback

The Reserve Bank of India on Friday said that it was reviewing its recent scheme on ATM replenishment whereby the regulator put in place mechanisms to penalise lenders. The central bank deputy governor T Rabi Shankar said that they had received inputs from banks and were in the process of reviewing it.

“The idea behind the penalty on outages in ATMs was to ensure that these services are available as much as possible in areas where the attention to ATMs is less, which is largely rural and semi-urban areas,” Shankar said. “We have received various feedback, some positive while some raise concerns. There are issues specific to location (of ATMs). We are trying to take all the feedback and have a review and see how best it can be implemented.”

ET was the first to report in its September 9 edition that lenders had approached the RBI seeking relaxation in its scheme citing issues of replenishing ATMs in rural geographies that could significantly push up costs and make business unviable.

In August, the banking regulator directed banks and white label ATM operators to strengthen systems that will allow them to monitor the availability of cash in ATMs and ensure timely replenishment to avoid cash-out situations. As part of the circular, a penalty of Rs 10,000 per ATM will be levied in the event of a cash-out situation for more than 10 hours in a month.

Banks were of the view that cash availability will drop as they go deeper in rural geographies as the cost to set up and maintain ATMs is high.

“Cost of transportation for ATM fitted notes is very high in rural India because of the distance between ATMs and the sparse network,” a banker said on the condition of anonymity. “Generally cash management companies and ATM service providers visit once in a few days to replenish cash and fix other tech or hardware issues.”

Banks have been slowly reducing ATM presence as they operationalise overall costs. Recently, Small finance bank Suryoday decided to shut down all its 26 automated teller machines, giving customers the option to use their debit cards on other banks’ ATMs, becoming the first domestic lender to completely do away with such machines. The small finance bank is formulating a strategy where it would offer its customers 5-7 transactions free per month when they use the ATM network of other banks to withdraw cash.

At the end of August there were 2.13 lakh ATMs in the country up from 2.09 lakh same time last year, a meagre growth of 1.5%. On the flip side the micro-ATMs have grown to 4.94 lakh as against 3.07 lakh in August last year, a rise of over 60%.

In order to make the business more viable the RBI recently increased the interchange fee on ATM transactions from Rs 15 to Rs 17. ATM interchange is the charge paid by the bank that issues the card (issuer) to the bank where the card is used to withdraw cash (acquirer).

In addition to this, the cap on fee that can be charged to the customer, which is capped at Rs 20 per transaction, was also increased to Rs 21.

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