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Why The RBI Needs To Differentiate Between Chargeable And Non-Chargeable SMS Services

Posted by G D Binani in Society
February 3, 2018

We all know that the government is intending to move towards digitisation – be it in the financial, educational or agricultural sectors. The government has also that the issues being faced by general public so that genuine reforms can be initiated.

There are certain reform matters which require the monitoring or issuance of only administrative orders. These, in turn, will protect customers from the hardships of policies which, personally speaking, are framed but do not have any regulations to ensure the protection of the interests of the common people – and in particular, the rural masses.

One such issue is the frequent increase in the SMS-alert charges by banks – and including these mandatory messages under the chargeable category. In my opinion, there should be a proper classification of mandatory and non-mandatory SMS. Even though the one-time password (OTP) received especially during internet banking should be under the category of mandatory SMS, they should not be chargeable.

Furthermore, we often feel disturbed at the unfair treatment which bank customers suffer in the form of frequent, arbitrary and one-sided decisions over bank charges. Additionally, the authorities often do not respond to our emails – they either maintain a silence or acknowledge it with remarks which are something akin to ‘the response will be forwarded to you soon’. But, in many cases, they never respond unless you continuously keep following up on the issue.

There are many different types of charges, out of which a few are considered mandatory. But even these differ from bank to bank. For example, for fund transfers via internet banking, an OTP gets generated and the same is forwarded through an SMS. This service is free in most of the banks as it falls under mandatory category. But, there are certain banks which do not agree to this. They provide this facility only if a customer opts for chargeable SMS services.

In view of the above, I would request the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to please classify the charges which will be considered mandatory. After all, we often emphasise on the importance of having a mandatory SMS service free of costs by all banks on financial and non-financial transactions done by their customers. This should be a very important component in the shift to digitisation

I would therefore expect the RBI to make a policy around this issue, clearly specifying the SMS services which will be mandatory (free of cost), and those which will be non-mandatory (can be made chargeable). I would ask all the banks to adhere to this policy. Most importantly, the OTP SMS service for online banking should be a part of the mandatory SMS category.

In view of the above, the RBI should issue fresh guidelines to all banks to upgrade their softwares on an urgent basis and also introduce a proper mechanism to monitor its rightful implementation. I think a dedicated RBI department should start monitoring this upgradation, after fixing an agreed time-frame.

I trust that the readers, in their own interest will take this matter up at all levels/forums so that suitable guidelines are issued without any further delay.


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