Credit Card Operations of banks- Guidelines Dated 21st Nov 2005
Pursuant to the announcement made in the Annual Policy Statement 2004-05, the Reserve Bank of India had constituted a Working Group on Regulatory Mechanism for Cards. The Group has suggested various regulatory measures aimed at encouraging growth of credit cards in a safe, secure and efficient manner as well as to ensure that the rules, regulations, standards and practices of the card issuing banks are in alignment with the best customer practices. The following guidelines on credit card operations of banks have been framed based on the recommendations of the Group as also the feedback received from the members of the public, card issuing banks and others. All the credit card issuing banks / NBFCs should implement these guidelines immediately.
Each bank / NBFC must have a well documented policy and a Fair Practices Code for credit card operations. In March 2005, the IBA released a Fair Practices Code for credit card operations which could be adopted by banks / NBFCs. The bank / NBFC's Fair Practice Code should, at a minimum, incorporate the relevant guidelines contained in this circular. Banks / NBFCs should widely disseminate the contents thereof including through their websites, at the latest by November 30, 2005.
Guidelines for Implementation
1. Issue of cards
a. Banks / NBFCs should independently assess the credit risk while issuing cards to persons, specially to students and others with no independent financial means. Add-on cards i.e. those that are subsidiary to the principal card, may be issued with the clear understanding that the liability will be that of the principal cardholder.
b. As holding several credit cards enhances the total credit available to any consumer, banks / NBFCs should assess the credit limit for a credit card customer having regard to the limits enjoyed by the cardholder from other banks on the basis of self declaration/ credit information.
c. The card issuing banks / NBFCs would be solely responsible for fulfillment of all KYC requirements, even where DSAs / DMAs or other agents solicit business on their behalf.
d. While issuing cards, the terms and conditions for issue and usage of a credit card should be mentioned in clear and simple language (preferably in English, Hindi and the local language) comprehensible to a card user. The Most Important Terms and Conditions (MITCs) termed as standard set of conditions, as given in the Appendix, should be highlighted and advertised/ sent separately to the prospective customer/ customers at all the stages i.e. during marketing, at the time of application, at the acceptance stage (welcome kit) and in important subsequent communications.
2. Interest rates and other charges
a. Card issuers should ensure that there is no delay in dispatching bills and the customer has sufficient number of days (at least one fortnight) for making payment before the interest starts getting charged.
b. Card issuers should quote annualized percentage rates (APR) on card products (separately for retail purchase and for cash advance, if different). The method of calculation of APR should be given with a couple of examples for better comprehension. The APR charged and the annual fee should be shown with equal prominence. The late payment charges, including the method of calculation of such charges and the number of days, should be prominently indicated. The manner in which the outstanding unpaid amount will be included for calculation of interest should also be specifically shown with prominence in all monthly statements. Even where the minimum amount indicated to keep the card valid has been paid, it should be indicated in bold letters that the interest will be charged on the amount due after the due date of payment. These aspects may be shown in the Welcome Kit in addition to being shown in the monthly statement.
c. The bank / NBFC should not levy any charge that was not explicitly indicated to the credit card holder at the time of issue of the card and getting his / her consent. However, this would not be applicable to charges like service taxes, etc. which may subsequently be levied by the Government or any other statutory authority.
d. The terms and conditions for payment of credit card dues, including the minimum payment due, should be stipulated so as to ensure that there is no negative amortization.
e. Changes in charges (other than interest) may be made only with prospective effect giving notice of at least one month. If a credit card holder desires to surrender his credit card on account of any change in credit card charges to his disadvantage, he may be permitted to do so without the bank levying any extra charge for such closure.
3. Wrongful billing
a. The card issuing bank / NBFC should ensure that wrong bills are not raised and issued to customers. In case, a customer protests any bill, the bank / NBFC should provide explanation and, if necessary, documentary evidence to the customer within a maximum period of sixty days with a spirit to amicably redress the grievances.
b. To obviate frequent complaints of delayed billing, the credit card issuing bank / NBFC may consider providing bills and statements of accounts online, with suitable security built therefor.
4. Use of DSAs / DMAs and other agents
a. When banks / NBFCs outsource the various credit card operations, they have to be extremely careful that the appointment of such service providers do not compromise with the quality of the customer service and the bank / NBFC’s ability to manage credit, liquidity and operational risks. In the choice of the service provider, the bank / NBFCs have to be guided by the need to ensure confidentiality of the customer’s records, respect customer privacy, and adhere to fair practices in debt collection.
b. The Code of Conduct for Direct Sales Agents (DSAs) formulated by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) could be used by banks / NBFCs in formulating their own codes for the purpose. The bank / NBFC should ensure that the DSAs engaged by them for marketing their credit card products scrupulously adhere to the bank / NBFC’s own Code of Conduct for credit card operations which should be displayed on the bank / NBFC’s website and be available easily to any credit card holder.
c. The bank / NBFC should have a system of random checks and mystery shopping to ensure that their agents have been properly briefed and trained in order to handle with care and caution their responsibilities, particularly in the aspects included in these guidelines like soliciting customers, hours for calling, privacy of customer information, conveying the correct terms and conditions of the product on offer, etc.
5. Protection of Customer Rights-
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6. Redressal of Grievances
a. Generally, a time limit of sixty (60) days may be given to the customers for preferring their complaints / grievances.
b. The card issuing bank / NBFC should constitute Grievance Redressal machinery within the bank / NBFC and give wide publicity about it through electronic and print media. The name and contact number of designated grievance redressal officer of the bank / NBFC should be mentioned on the credit card bills. The designated officer should ensure that genuine grievances of credit card subscribers are redressed promptly without involving delay.
c. The grievance redressal procedure of the bank / NBFC and the time frame fixed for responding to the complaints should be placed on the bank / NBFC's website. The name, designation, address and contact number of important executives as well as the Grievance Redressal Officer of the bank / NBFC may be displayed on the website. There should be a system of acknowledging customers' complaints for follow up, such as complaint number / docket number, even if the complaints are received on phone.
d. If a complainant does not get satisfactory response from the bank / NBFC within a maximum period of thirty (30) days from the date of his lodging the complaint, he will have the option to approach the Office of the concerned Banking Ombudsman for redressal of his grievance/s. The bank / NBFC shall be liable to compensate the complainant for the loss of his time, expenses, financial loss as well as for the harassment and mental anguish suffered by him for the fault of the bank and where the grievance has not been redressed in time.
7. Internal control and monitoring systems
With a view to ensuring that the quality of customer service is ensured on an on-going basis in banks / NBFCs, the Standing Committee on Customer Service in each bank / NBFC may review on a monthly basis the credit card operations including reports of defaulters to the CIBIL, credit card related complaints and take measures to improve the services and ensure the orderly growth in the credit card operations. Banks / NBFCs should put up detailed quarterly analysis of credit card related complaints to their Top Management. Card issuing banks should have in place a suitable monitoring mechanism to randomly check the genuineness of merchant transactions.
8. Right to impose penalty
The Reserve Bank of India reserves the right to impose any penalty on a bank / NBFC under the provisions of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 for violation of any of these guidelines.
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