After the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) came out with a discussion paper last week on charges in payment systems, the Finance Ministry on Sunday clarified that there is no consideration in the government to levy any charges for Unified Payments Interface (UPI) services.
In a discussion paper released on Wednesday, the RBI had asked stakeholders if the merchant discount rate (MDR), a fee paid by merchants to acquiring banks, should be brought back for UPI transactions. MDR on UPI transactions has been a long-standing demand of the payments industry.
Most other modes of digital retail payments attract a charge on transactions. Currently, the government has mandated a “zero-charge framework” for UPI transactions, with effect from January 1, 2020. This translates into charges on UPI for users as well as merchants being nil.
The RBI paper, seeking feedback on the fee structure for a range of digital payment services through a set of 40 questions, is open for comments till October 3. The feedback received would be used to guide policies and intervention strategies, it said.
However, the central bank had said that at this stage, it is “reiterated that RBI has neither taken any view nor has any specific opinion on the issues raised in this discussion”.
Terming UPI services as a “digital public good”, the Finance Ministry stepped in on Sunday to clarify that the concerns for the service providers for cost recovery have to be met through other means. “UPI is a digital public good with immense convenience for the public & productivity gains for the economy. There is no consideration in Govt to levy any charges for UPI services. The concerns of the service providers for cost recovery have to be met through other means,” the ministry said in a tweet.
It further said that the government had provided financial support for digital payment ecosystem last year and has announced the same this year as well to “encourage further adoption of #DigitalPayments and promotion of payment platforms that are economical and user-friendly”.
The RBI, while releasing the discussion paper, had stated that in “any economic activity, including payment systems”, there does not seem to be any justification for a free service, “unless there is an element of public good and dedication of the infrastructure for the welfare of the nation”. “But who should bear the cost of setting up and operating such an infrastructure is a moot point,” the banking regulator had said in the paper.
In its discussion paper, the Reserve Bank has approximated that with an average value of Rs 800 for a merchant transaction, various stakeholders enabling the UPI transaction, including the payer and beneficiary banks, the third-party app, and the NPCI, incur a cost of Rs 2.
According to official data from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), in July, there were 628.84 crore UPI transactions representing a value of Rs 10.63 lakh crore. It has 338 banks live on the platform. Recently, the RBI allowed UPI on credit cards as well starting with NPCI’s RuPay cards.
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In her Budget speech for 2022-23, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said, “The financial support for digital payment ecosystem announced in the previous Budget will continue in 2022-23. This will encourage further adoption of digital payments. There will also be a focus to promote use of payment platforms that are economical and user friendly”.
The government allocated Rs 200 crore for reimbursement of charges towards RuPay debit card and UPI transactions. In 2021-22, it had budgeted Rs 1,500 crore towards this.
The RBI discussion paper covers all aspects relating to charges in payments systems such as Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) system, Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system and UPI, and various payment instruments such as debit cards, credit cards and prepaid payment instruments (PPIs), etc.