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Banks propose fee for pass books
November, 13th 2006
Printing pass books and issuing monthly statements would increase transaction costs for banks.

Banks have appealed to the Reserve Bank of India to relax its recent stipulation making issue of passbooks compulsory and free-of cost to savings bank account holders.

Some banks, particularly large private and foreign banks, are of the view that this adds to their cost.

While public sector banks issue passbooks, large private and foreign banks issue only statements.

In a circular issued to banks last month, the RBI had said a passbook was a ready reckoner of transactions and being handy and compact, was far more convenient to small customers than a statement of account which had some inherent difficulties such as need for filing, tallying of opening balance with closing balance of previous statement, loss and delay in receipt of statements etc. Therefore, it had advised banks to provide passbooks to all savings bank account-holders (individuals). The cost of providing such passbooks should not be recovered from the customers, the circular had said.

Even a month after the directive was issued, some banks are yet to implement it.

Private and foreign banks issue only quarterly statements of accounts. Their argument is that customers can get details of their accounts from ATMs, phone banking or Net banking.

When asked about the RBI directive, the staff at some branches said they were still waiting for orders from their head offices.

According to banking sources, the Indian Bank Association has approached the RBI seeking relaxation of the stipulation. It has suggested that banks be allowed to charge a fee for issuing passbooks.

Mr Nicholas Winsor, Head, Personal Financial Services - India, HSBC said, "As it wasn't clear what the intent of the guidelines was, we have sought clarification with the IBA and are waiting for the reply. This will require infrastructure support. We send statements regularly and that seems to work fine."

Mr V. Vaidyanathan, head of retail banking, ICICI Bank, said the bank was studying the directive.

Printing pass books and issuing monthly statements would increase transaction costs for banks, which then will be forced to recover it from the customer, pointed out the head of retail of a new generation private bank. All banks will require dedicated printers, larger networks and huge bandwidth, which will increase costs. Even couriering statements every month, instead of every three months, will add to the costs, he said.

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