Friday July 01, 2022

ATMs, online banking face pressure ahead of Eid holidays

May 09, 2021

KARACHI: Several banks’ Automated Teller Machines (ATM) booths are packed with clients, while online/mobile banking traffic congestion is creating outages and connectivity issues ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr holidays as customers avoided branch interactions amid limited hours and virus restrictions, The News learnt on Saturday.

Long queues of customers were seen at the ATM booths outside the branches of various banks in the city, seeking to draw cash from the machines for personal needs especially shopping.

Like every year, overseas Pakistanis sent home large amounts of money to their families and relatives before Eid. So, ATMs are facing a big rush of clients.

Customers standing at the ATM in various localities of the city told The News they were facing difficulties withdrawing cash from ATMs. Most ATMs were running out of cash due to insufficient funds.

“We are frustrated by the inappropriate services of ATMs and online banking services before Eid festival every year,” a customer said.

This year the government announced long Eid holidays starting from May 10 to 15.

People flocked to online and mobile banking en masse as they were reluctant to visit branches and ATMs due to limited office timings in banks for public dealings following the decision of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

“An increased demand and usage of the internet and mobile banking caused some technical glitches so some customers were facing issues in accessing their net banking and mobile banking services, but many banks have not resolved these issues yet,” said a banker.

Abid Qamar, the chief spokesman for the State Bank of Pakistan said the central bank has given instructions to banks for elaborate arrangements to ensure 24/7 availability of ATMs.

“According to our internal monitoring most of the ATMs are available to serve the public. Teams of SBP and banks are working continuously to address complaints in this regard,” Qamar said.

In a letter issued to banks, the SBP’s Payment System Department said during the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays from May 10-15, 2021, the public largely be dependent on alternate and digital payment services including ATMs, point of sale, online payment gateways and internet/mobile banking services for their day-to-day needs.

“As per our experience, customers usually face issues like ATM inaccessibility due to locked cubicle doors and shutter closures, out-of-cash ATMs, network connectivity issues, disruption in online services and refusal of merchants to accept card payments,” it said.

The SBP advised banks to take all necessary measures to ensure continuous and round-the-clock availability of banking and payment services to customers.

“Please ensure that your business continuity and disaster recovery arrangement are in place and fully functional,” the SBP asked banks.

Mobiliie all resources, including vendors, to ensure timely resolution of issues like out-of-cash ATM, hardware/software problems, power outages, and network connectivity issues, it said.

“Advise your relevant monitoring teams to report the factual position of ATMs availability to SBP and ensure that ATMs that are inaccessible for public due to any reason are reported as non-available. To identify ATMs with closed shutter, doors etc. they may also be advised to deploy real time MIS to identify operational ATMs that are not performing transactions for a certain period of time (say 2-3 hours).”

Also ensure that the Whatapp group for ATM monitoring remains fully active and the teams are highly vigilant, to warrant immediate resolution of complaints and ATM related issues, it added. The SBP asked banks to defer any planned upgradation of IT system and services that may result in any downtime of alternative delivery channels for your customers.

In case of any untoward incident, resulting in unplanned service outages, the customers must immediately be informed through appropriate means including but not limited to social and print media, SMS alert services etc.

And ensure that payment due dates for all consumer loans including credit cards, personal loans, car financing etc. that are falling between the period of May 8 and May 16, shall be extended till May 21, 2021, it said.

Electronic-banking transactions increased 22 percent to Rs21.4 trillion in the second quarter of this fiscal year, showing strong growth in digital financial transactions in the country.

During October-December FY2021, 296.7 million E-banking transactions valuing Rs21.4 trillion were carried out, registering a growth of 24 percent by volume and 22 percent by value, over the same quarter last year, the SBP’s Quarterly Payment System Review (QPSR) for the second quarter of the fiscal year 2020/21.

Most of the uptake in e-banking transactions was seen in internet and mobile banking. The volume of mobile banking transactions reached 44 million, (up 147 percent) valuing Rs1.12 trillion (up 192 percent) compared to 17.8 million transactions valuing 382.5 billion in the same quarter, last year.