The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), on Wednesday, released the tariff structure and guidelines for mobile banking services, a step that would help rural customers who do not have access to banks and financial services. The TRAI has prescribed a ceiling tariff for an outgoing unstructured supplementary service data (USSD)-based mobile banking service at Rs.1.50 per USSD session.
“We have come out with a framework to help bank agents to interface with service providers for the use of SMS, USSD and IVR (interactive voice response) channels to provide mobile banking services. The authority wants to utilise the benefits of mobile banking for financial inclusion. A large section of the population, especially in rural areas, do not have an easy access to banks…This facility will help to tide over that shortcoming,” TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar told journalists here on Wednesday.
The Mobile Banking (Quality of Service) (Amendment) Regulations, 2013 have come into immediate effect, and the Telecommunication Tariff (56th Amendment) Order, 2013 shall come into force on January 1, 2014, TRAI said in a note. USSD technology is used by telecom operators to send alerts to their users. It can be used for pre-paid call-back service, location-based content services, and menu-based information services.
The TRAI note said telecom service providers should collect charges from their subscribers for providing the USSD to deliver mobile banking services. All service providers should facilitate not only the banks, but also the agents of banks to use SMS, USSD and IVR to provide banking services to bank customers.
“On September 30, 2013, there were about 87 crore mobile subscribers in the country of which about 35 crore were in the rural areas. The fact that a large number of mobile subscribers in rural areas do not have access to banking facilities presents an opportunity for leveraging the mobile telephone to achieve the goal of financial inclusion,” the note added.
On the issue of unsolicited commercial calls, Mr. Khullar said the TRAI had given banks time till December this year to end all such calls or face stringent action, though some service providers have been penalised. “We have stringently implemented the guidelines on pesky calls, and have penalised some operators. We have so far not penalised banks and insurance companies as they have asked for 4-6 weeks to deal with unsolicited commercial call or SMS,” he added.
Asked why the TRAI has failed to act against banks despite having clear-cut policy against pesky calls, Mr. Khullar said they were approached by telecom operators with complaints against the banks, while banks also approached them.
“At that time I exercised regulatory forbearance and I wrote a speaking order that it will lead to major inconvenience to the public and throw financial transactions out of order. Therefore, I will give them an opportunity to mend their ways. We gave them about 2-3 weeks to come back to us. Many of the banks assured us that they will check this,” Mr. Khullar added.