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DNA EXCLUSIVE: Banks to pay penalty if ATMs run out of cash
DNA, June 15, 2019

A committee headed by Indian Banks' Association (IBA) chief executive officer VG Kannan was set up two days back at the behest of RBI to look into the whole gamut of ATM charges and miscellaneous issues.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may impose a penalty on banks if their ATMs run dry and fail to dispense cash for more than three hours, inconveniencing customers. "The circular has already gone to the banks," said a source.

Despite the remonetisation efforts of the government, there are several small cities and rural areas facing severe cash crunch with ATMs running dry for several hours and even for some days. This results in serpentine queues in bank branches that have running ATMs.

However, when contacted, banks said they have not received any circular so far. "We are yet to get the circular," said a senior official from the State Bank of India (SBI).

The sensors installed in ATMs help banks get a warning about depleting cash in their teller machines.

"But sometimes due to the lackadaisical attitude of banks, the ATMs that have run out of cash are not re-filled immediately. In rural areas, people are forced to go to banking correspondents in such a situation, and they end up paying higher charges for each transaction," said the source.

A committee headed by Indian Banks' Association (IBA) chief executive officer VG Kannan was set up two days back at the behest of RBI to look into the whole gamut of ATM charges and miscellaneous issues.

RBI has mandated the panel to come out with a report in next two months.

"There is sufficient cash at the moment, but there could be instances when ATMs run dry," said a member of the Confederation of ATM Industry (CATMI), an apex body of domestic ATM companies.

There are 2.2 lakh ATMs in the country, a number that is coming down with banks either shutting them down or merging them in the last two years. Banks are encouraging customers to migrate to internet banking, where the operational costs are significantly lower.

The high-level panel will review the existing structures and patterns of costs, charges and interchange fees for ATM transactions. It will also review the overall patterns of usage of ATMs by cardholders and assess the impact, on charges and interchange fees.

CATMI has been demanding higher charges from banks for cash refilling after the Ministry of Home Affairs asked cash management companies to improve security services with steps like deploying two armed guards in cash transporting van, software and hardware updates, and so on, which would push up operating costs of these companies.

Incidentally, while the rate of cash circulation has surpassed pre-demonetisation levels, it is not in tandem with the rate of economic growth.

Cash Out > Cash In

• Stock-taking by central bank in 2018 found rate of cash withdrawal to be much higher than rate of cash deposits in many states, leading to a cash crunch

• This was particularly true for non-urban areas in Bihar, Telangana, Andhra, MP, UP, Rajasthan, K’taka and Mah

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