Payment issue on Customs interface mostly resolved, say officials; industry flags hiccups

Cargo clearance not hit by introduction of new Electronic Credit Ledger (ECL) payment system on Icegate portal, says senior govt. official; importers say system has improved in recent weeks but glitches remain

May 27, 2023 08:48 pm | Updated 08:48 pm IST - COIMBATORE/ NEW DELHI


Payment issues that had plagued importers following the switchover to a new customs collection interface from April 1 have largely been sorted out now, according to senior government officials, but industry continues to face a few hiccups with the process. 

“To the best of my knowledge, cargo clearance has not faced problems even when the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) introduced a new Electronic Credit Ledger (ECL) payment system on the Icegate portal for importers,” a senior government official told The Hindu.   

“The problem was with regard to the integration with the payment gateway, which they have managed to sort out. But for that, cargoes were not being held up,” he asserted, stressing that April’s reduction in India’s goods import bill was in no way linked to the payment platform’s challenges. 

In April, imports shrank 14% to hit a 15-month low of $49.90 billion, as per initial estimates from the Commerce Ministry, taking the merchandise trade deficit to a 20-month low of $15.24 billion. 

Importers say that the new system has seen some improvements in recent weeks but some problems keep cropping up. 

“Despite our best efforts, there is still a problem with sending payments to credit ledgers via online banking and other NEFT/RTGS processes at the Icegate Portal,” said a garment exporter. “Additionally, we have been experiencing errors while carrying out the payment process,” added the exporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

“This has caused delays in clearing import shipments at ports for the past 30 days, resulting in significant demurrages. We are unable to meet the production schedules for export orders as planned,” he added.   

Some importers in Tiruppur have demanded reintroduction of net banking facility to remit duties and other payments to the Customs Department through the Icegate portal. 

According to an export-oriented textile unit in Tiruppur, the new ECL payment system now works well on some days but not all the time yet. “There is uncertainty on when the system will work fine or act up,” said the firm’s accounts manager. “Sometimes, the portal crashes or the ECL gateway becomes dysfunctional and we are unable to track the payments made to the ECL,”  the manager, who did not wish to be identified, added.

Tiruppur Exporters Association president K.M. Subramanian said that while online payment of duty was getting slightly delayed, importers had an option now to pay manually through banks. 

According to P. Subramanian, former president of Coimbatore Custom House and Steamer Agents Association, the online payment issue had not been resolved fully. But importers had the option of paying through banks. While online payments could be made at any time of the day, some importers now had to go to the bank in person, which was a time-consuming process, he observed.

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