A clarification was issued by the State Bank of India (SBI) on Thursday (April 15, 2021), post a recent study claiming that the bank was levying 'unreasonable' charges for various services provided to zero-balance account or basic savings bank deposit (BSBD) account holders.
It was claimed by the study that the decision by SBI to levy a charge of Rs 17.70 for every debit transaction beyond the four free transactions in a month on BSBD accounts cannot be considered as fair and reasonable.
It was said in the statement of SBI the fact that banks were free to charge reasonable fees on services after four debit transactions a month was announced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in August, 2012. Following this, charges for debit transactions beyond four free transactions in BSBD accounts were issued by SBI, with an effect from June 14, 2016 with prior intimation to the customers.
The banks were advised to refund all fees collected from account holders for making digital transactions on or after January 1, 2020 by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in August 2020. In order to encourage cashless transactions, it also asked banks not to collect any further charges for digital transactions from account holders.
This suggestion from the CBDT found its base from a previous directive from the RBI that was released in August 2019. Banks were also asked to provide basic minimum services to BSBD account holders without levying any fees on such services by the RBI directive. This was with respect to inclusion of depositing cash and four minimum monthly withdrawals.
Refund of charges collected for all digital transactions to the BSBD account holders with effect from January 1, 2020 to September 14, 2020 was claimed by SBI. It had reportedly stopped recovering charges in such accounts on all digital transactions from September 15, 2020 onwards. However, the charges on all debit withdrawals after four free transactions in a month are still retained by SBI. Aiding cashless transactions, being the main motive, BSBD account holders including Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) account holders were supposed to be encouraged for the same, by the charges that were levied. Fees levied on SMS services and on maintenance of monthly average balance to all its Savings Bank account holders has also been waived by the Bank. SBI said in its statement, “Customer Centricity has always been the Bank’s focus. SBI has been determinedly working towards offering a convenient banking experience to all its diverse range of customers.”