From Netflix and Hotstar to Airtel to Jio bills, brace for surprises as RBI’s guidelines on auto-debit transactions kick in from October 1

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From Netflix and Hotstar to Airtel to Jio bills, brace for surprises as RBI’s guidelines on auto-debit transactions kick in from October 1
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  • Starting October, users will need to re-authenticate their net banking/card/unified payments interface (UPI) details as per the new format, and validate it with a one-time password, to continue their auto-debit transactions.
  • The development comes as RBI introduced an additional factor of authentication for all recurring transactions in August 2019.
  • Even as the RBI’s new guidelines help make payments more secure for customers, there are likely to be short-term challenges as banks will see a sudden rise in authenticating e-mandates.

As the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) guidelines for auto-debit transactions kick-in from October 1, those having online subscriptions, or other recurring payments such as phone bills, utility bills and rent are likely to face short-term pain as the banking regulator looks to impose two-factor authentication on all such transactions.

Here’s what will change



Starting October, users will need to re-authenticate their net banking/card/unified payments interface (UPI) details as per the new format, and validate it with a one-time password, on all such platforms to continue their auto-debit transactions below ₹5,000. Whereas all transactions above ₹5,000 will require a further additional link for authentication, as they are not eligible for e-mandate-based recurring transactions.

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Why the change?



The development comes as RBI introduced an additional factor of authentication for all recurring transactions in August 2019. The guidelines require users to opt for an e-mandate facility through a one-time registration process, which can only be successful once the user validates using an OTP, besides entering their bank/card/UPI details. Users will also get an option to pause, modify or cancel their recurring transactions.

How will it work?



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An e-mandate is a standing instruction initiated by the RBI and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) that allows businesses to collect recurring payments of up to ₹5,000. These mandates can be directly set up through a net banking transaction from merchant websites.

For example, if a user is signing up for a Netflix subscription via an e-mandate, he or she can schedule all monthly payments through a one-time authentication.

From Netflix and Hotstar to Airtel to Jio bills, brace for surprises as RBI’s guidelines on auto-debit transactions kick in from October 1
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What experts say?



What this essentially means is that one will have to re-authenticate all their subscriptions and recurring payments once again starting October, without which the payment to the merchant (say, Netflix) will fail, said Mandar Kagade, founder and principal at Black Dot Public Policy Advisors.

“The onus of re-authentication and grievance redressal falls on issuing banks, which would need to have their systems prepared as customers may see failed payments or issues with authentication via OTPs. Since so many e-mandates would need to be set up on the same day, it is likely that we will see a non-trivial number of failures,” he said.

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Even as the RBI’s new guidelines help make payments more secure for customers, there are likely to be short-term challenges as banks will see a sudden rise in authenticating e-mandates, said Srinath Sridharan, member of governance council at Fintech Association for Consumer Empowerment (FACE).

“October is going to be a critical month because there will be multi-fold challenges in processing such payments, starting from the tremendous pressure on bank servers due to spike in bulk OTP messages, which would need to be sent to consumers for setting up their e-mandates, to addressing disputes emanating from failures in such authentication,” he said.

Further, banks will increasingly need to depend on fintech companies to help them handle such large volumes of e-mandates that will come through October, he said. “Most banks will have to depend on fintech companies to make this processing possible, which are much better equipped to assist banks in processing e-mandates for recurring transactions,” he said.

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If not manually, how else can I set up e-mandates for all my recurring payments?



Customers who do not want to make all their recurring payments manually can either set up auto-pay using the net banking facility, or do it through online bill payment companies.

Fintech companies such as BillDesk, Citibank’s Billpay, ICICI Bank’s Mandate Hub and Yes Bank’s PayNow allow users to set up auto-pay e-mandates, while others such as PayU's Zion and Razorpay’s Mandate HQ enable banks to automate recurring transactions.

More pain for banks and telecom operators


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“The usual retail consumer traffic increases over the weekend, which means every time a customer tries to re-authenticate their recurring payment, the bank will have to send out OTPs, and those banks that are not well-equipped or have not adequately invested in integrating their servers, will face a lot of challenges,” said Sridharan.

In March, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had to roll back its norms on commercial text messages, which required ‘scrubbing’ of text messages by telecom providers, to protect customers from spams. However, once implemented, many customers took to social media to complain about not receiving OTPs for transactional messages such as for banking and e-commerce.

“As each of these banks start pushing out bulk messages, the traffic from bank servers to authenticate transactions will suddenly increase. Hopefully, the user banks are ready with technology preparedness and SoPs (standard operating procedures) for this. And more importantly, all industry stakeholders should be geared to address consumer concerns, and to ensure that the customer call centres and other touch points are ready for handling both queries and speedy redressal of grievances,” said Sridharan.
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