State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has directed conventional and microfinance banks to allow cash deposits into merchant accounts by the owners, which are mostly retailers of various goods and services.
The central bank has revised its regulations on “Digital On-Boarding of Merchants” which previously allowed merchants to use their merchant accounts only for digital payment collection against the provision of legitimate goods and services.
The central bank allowed the banks’ customers and Branchless Banking level “0” accountholders to top up/cash in their accounts up to Rs. 10,000/- per month through biometrically verified merchants. However, a cash deposit shall only be used for digital payments.
Merchant account holders are allowed to deposit money in their account but the total cash deposit in merchant accounts shall not exceed Rs. 100,000/- per month.
Previously, banks and microfinance banks were not permitted cash deposit transactions in these accounts.
Regular and microfinance banks shall ensure that merchants on-boarded under these regulations do not perform functions of banking, electronic money institutions (EMIs), branchless banking agents, or any other activity for which specific and separate permission is required from SBP under the relevant laws and regulations.
- Banks and microfinance banks shall not permit cross border outward remittance transactions from these accounts.
- Banks shall ensure the security of application, web-portals and digital channels for onboarding merchants, in line with international best practices.
- Banks shall comply with SBP’s instructions on the security of payment channels, payment instruments, customer data, etc. issued from time to time.
In Pakistan, digitization of retail transactions is low due to the limited number of digital points of sale in the country. The primary reason is the hectic process of merchant onboarding that requires a long list of documentation and an even longer process of due diligence by the banks. As a result, the number of point-of-sale terminals that are primarily being used for conducting transactions and that too usually at high-end retail outlets, have been hovering around 50,000 in the country.
Through these regulations, the banks will be targeting smaller merchants, enabling them to accept payments digitally using a completely new variety of low-cost, tech-enabled payment instruments/methods like QR codes through mobile applications.
SBP is of the view that issuance of these merchant onboarding regulations will enable banks and microfinance banks to quickly onboard a large segment of retail merchants and enable them to accept their payments digitally thus giving new payment options to the general public and broadening the base of financial inclusion in the country.