e-payment of bills is opted by only 4 per cent of the customers under the Ernakulam wing of BSNL.

The electronic platform for transfer of funds is getting bigger, but the option is not the favourite mode for many people in Ernakulam.

Despite the conveniences that the e-mode offers, it doesn’t appeal to a large section of society. What is surprising is that the low migration to bank-based transfer of funds for utility payment is happening at a time when the government is thinking of making payments on the bank-based mode for a variety of services to the common man. Significantly, Ernakulam boasts of 100 per cent meaningful financial inclusion by way of including all the families under the banking operations

The electronic mode of bill payment is opted by only 4 per cent of the customers under the Ernakulam wing of BSNL. The electronic mode includes the web-based online method and the electronic clearance system. Under the former system, the customer can enter the service provider’s portal directly and transfer funds.

The electronic clearing system requires the customer to submit a form authorising the bank, where the customer holds an account, to transfer the funds electronically at appropriate time. Those customers who do not have a bank account can’t utilise the system.

“Our customers include all sorts of people and there could be many who do not operate a bank account,” a senior official of BSNL told The Hindu. Submission of the mandate form would imply that the funds in the banks would be automatically transferred to the service provider. If the bank account doesn’t have enough funds at the specified time of bill payment, it could result in complications and the bank can impose a penalty on the account holder.

The customer can exercise an option to suspend payment of the bill temporarily and pay it at a later date with penalty. The option can’t be exercised once the customer joins the ECS system. This aspect too could be a deterrent to several customers who aspire to migrate to ECS. With the focus on electronic payment mode in the administrative sections of the government gaining momentum, the facility is set to be expanded to more areas. Kerala State Electricity Board is in the process of upgrading its software to enable online payment of consumer bills. The upgradation is being executed in a systematic way.

Online facility will be of immense help to those who find it difficult to reach the offices where the bill payments are received. It could also be convenient to the people who are away from their residences and those whose houses are not occupied as the power bills would have to be paid irrespective of occupancy.

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