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General News Bank account number is sole criteria for e-fund transfers now
Looking to speed up the transfer of funds electronically, banks will henceforth only take into account customers' account numbers for such transactions, ignoring other details like names. The new mechanism is intended to reduce the possibility of any errors and comes into effect from today (January 1, 2011).

This is in line with a Reserve Bank directive under which customers would need to mention their account numbers twice for every electronic fund transfer request made through the Internet, as well as at bank branches. The central bank had directed the banks to put in place the appropriate systems and procedures to comply with the directive from the New Year.

As per the RBI guidelines, the banks would need to process all inward electronic transactions solely on the basis of the account number of the customer.

The new system would be applicable for all electronic payment gateways, such as RTGS, NEFT, NECS and ECS, besides fund transfers initiated by customers at bank branches or over the Internet.

Although electronic payment methods are aimed at achieving expeditious fund transfers through a computerised system, the earlier practice involved manual intervention too, on account of the tedious process of matching various details such as customers' names and branch details.

The situation becomes more difficult in India, where some people tend to write their names in different manners when opening banks accounts. "In the Indian context, given the many different ways in which beneficiary names can be written, it becomes extremely challenging to perfectly match the name field contained in the electronic transfer instructions with the name on record in the books of the destination bank."

"Any manual intervention not only delays completion of the instruction, but also provides scope for error and fraudulent intent," the RBI said.

As all the banks in the country work in a Core Banking Software (CBS) environment, no two customers have similar account numbers across banks and as such, the RBI observed that account numbers could easily considered as the sole criteria for transfer of funds electronically.

Although it would still be mandatory for the customers' name to be mentioned while making electronic fund transfers, only the account number will be relied on for the purpose of affording credit, the RBI said. The banks would use details such as the customers' names for post-credit checking, as well as in the case of customers falling in high-risk categories.

In order to keep the account numbers error-free, the customers would need to input the account number information more than once while conducting electronic fund transactions either over the Internet or at bank branches, the RBI said.
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