Recurring card pays to be hit from next month

MUMBAI: Some cardholders might see standing instructions for payment on their credit card fail from next month. These could be for subscriptions with online content platforms, edtech companies or standing instructions for online advertisement payments. Some of these merchants are yet to comply with RBI’s new requirement of additional factor authentication (OTP) for recurring payments through cards though the deadline is less than a week away.
According to sources, around 75% of the banks have put in place the technology to meet RBI’s directive. However, there are some banks and merchants who are still in wait-and-watch mode. Banks are writing to customers, warning that some transactions may fail: “Effective October 1, 2021, the bank will not approve any standing instruction (e-mandate on cards for recurring transactions) given at merchant website/app on HDFC Bank credit/debit card, unless it is as per RBI-compliant process.” The bank has recommended that customers use its bill-pay option for utilities or pay on the biller’s website using OTP.
According to Razorpay, which processes close to a third of all recurring payment transactions, a dozen banks have already put in place the new setup where even for repeat payments the bank will alert the customer a day in advance and also provide them with a link to discontinue the mandate. “In the short term, there may be some disruption but, in the long term, this move by the RBI can take growth in recurring payment mandates off the charts,” said Razorpay chief technology officer and co-founder Shashank Kumar.
Kumar says the RBI directive addresses two key issues. Earlier, discontinuing a standing instruction to a merchant could be extremely cumbersome with some asking for a letter to be sent by post asking to discontinue the subscription. Second, debit cards were a grey area and recurring payments were done largely in credit cards. Incidentally, even after October 1, international mandates will continue as neither banks nor the RBI has jurisdiction over international billers.
“There are 900 million debit cards in India and their inclusion could increase the market multifold,” said Kumar. According to Kumar, by empowering customers to stop the payments at any time, the RBI has increased the confidence level. This could also make online education or entertainment more affordable as the availability of this facility will encourage providers to have a monthly debit model rather than recover annual fees.
Besides requiring banks to alert customers, the RBI has capped automatic debits at Rs 5,000 per month. This would mean that billers, like insurance companies, with large instalments, would need to increase the frequency to enable auto-debit. In the case of utilities, many online payers use their bank’s bill payment platform for standing instructions and will have no impact.

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