Through BPRD Circular Letter 19 of 2021, various relaxations were provided to the regulated entities for easing of the challenges faced by them and their account holders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBP said.
Considering the on-going impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the central bank decided to further extend the validity of following regulatory relaxations till June 30, 2022.
i. Banks/ MFBs may utilize NADRA Verisys in place of biometric verification, where the same is not possible or appropriate due to risk of COVID-19 spread, while complying with controls and measures stipulated in BPRD Circular Letter 9 of 2020, ACMFD Circular Letter 3 of 2020 and BPRD Circular Letter 19 of 2021.
ii. Banks/ MFBs shall continue with enhanced transaction limit of Rs. 500,000 per month and maximum account balance of Rs. 500,000 for non-biometrically verified merchant accounts.
iii. Authorized Financial Institutions (AFIs) shall not downgrade non-biometrically verified Branchless Banking (BB) legacy Level-1 accounts to Level-0.
However, unless instructed otherwise, the above mentioned relaxations will automatically stand withdrawn upon expiry of the extended timeline of June 30, 2022.
Thereafter, banks/ MFBs shall follow the applicable regulatory instructions in the related areas. Meanwhile, banks/ MFBs are advised to take appropriate measures and steps to ensure smooth transition to normal operations without COVID-19 related regulatory forbearance.
Moreover, AFIs may continue to provide Person-to-Person (P2P) transfers through BB channel as stipulated under Branchless Banking Regulations for Financial Institutions (Para 4.4) till June 30, 2022. However, the same shall be ceased immediately upon expiry of the extended timeline. AFIs are advised to take necessary measures, such as creating customer awareness, making adjustments in their business model and infrastructure accordingly.
Notwithstanding the above, banks/ DFIs/ MFBs shall immediately revert back to the applicable instructions on the following:
i. Blocking accounts without valid Identity Documents after serving one month prior notice as stipulated in the AML/ CFT / CPF Regulations (Regulation-2, Para 23).
ii. Marking accounts as dormant/ in-operative as defined in the AML/ CFT/ CPF Regulations (Definition 25).
iii. Conducting biometric verification for all cash in or cash out transactions in BB Level-0 accounts as stipulated in Branchless Banking Regulations for Financial Institutions (Para 4.3).
iv. Conducting staff visits to newly acquired agents as stipulated in the Framework for Branchless Banking Agent Acquisition and Management (Para 9.10 (c) (1)). For the agents acquired during the COVID-19 period, for whom visits have not yet been conducted, AFIs shall perform the same by March 31, 2022, positively.
The revised instructions shall be applicable with effect from January 01, 2022.