This Is How SBI ‘Earned’ Rs 300 Cr From Zero-Balance Accounts In Last 5 Years!

SBI accumulated Rs 300 Cr in service charges imposed on withdrawals by Zero-Bal accounts

IIT Bombay professor Ashish Das has done a study which revealed that SBI along with other banks has accrued Rs 300 cr over 5 years between 2015-20 from 12 cr accounts belonging to impoverished citizens. 

How The SBI And Others Made Money

It has imposed charges on certain services extended to those holding zero-balance or Basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts (BSBDA).

After 4 transactions are complete, SBI levies Rs 17.70 for every transaction which the study considers to be unreasonable. 

Punjab National Bank, India’s second-largest public sector lender, ranked 2nd which collected Rs 9.9 cr in the same period from its 3.9cr BSBDAs.

The study said that RBI regulations on BSBDAs were breached most notably by SBI with its penalty for debit transactions including digital transactions like NEFT, IMPS, UPI, BHIM-UPI and debit cards for merchant payments.. 

These charges had led to collections to the tune of Rs 72 crore in the period of 2018-19 and Rs 158 crore in the period of 2019-20.

“Unreasonable” Practices

Under the definition of a BSBDA, along with compulsory free banking services including 4 withdrawals a month, so long as a savings deposit account is a BSBDA the bank cannot charge fees for value-added services it offers at its own discretion.

Any withdrawal after the complimentary 4 a month is deemed a value-added service by the RBI.

The study has judged the SBI’s duty to the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana scheme (which seeks to make financial services such as bank accounts, credit, insurance accessible to all regardless of income or financial status) to be negligent by forcing the poor account holders to pay high charges for transactions that is allowed in a BSBDA. 

Against The Interests Of India’s Poor

The study also pointed out the contradiction between the Centre promoting digitisation of transactions and the SBI discouraging the same with its imposition of Rs 17.70 charge per digital transaction. 

It undermines the goal of financial inclusion.

It further stated that the RBI’s lack of concern has given impetus to other banks to follow the footsteps of the SBI by imposing unreasonable charges after completion of 4 debits in a month. 

IDBI Bank

Effective from January 1, 2021, IDBI Bank had also begun imposing a service charge of Rs 20 for every digital debit transaction. 

ATM withdrawals ran the account holder a risk of paying Rs 40. 

There is also a freeze that comes into place when one completes 10 debits a month.

Study Blames RBI

Unintentionally but by practice nonetheless the RBI has continued the victimization of the financially vulnerable BSBDA customers despite being obliged to protect their interests.

The study blamed the specialised depts of ‘Consumer Education and Protection Department’ and the ‘Financial Inclusion and Development Department’ for letting all this go on all the while the RBI mandate of “ensuring reasonableness of service charges” was in place. 

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