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KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has issued guidelines for downtime of digital services and directed the financial institutions to intimate the customers and SBP about any planned activity that created digital services disruption.

According to State Bank, in recent years, the use of digital channels and customers’ reliance for carrying out day-to-day transactions has increased manifold. However, it has been observed that in cases of service outages, customers are not informed in a timely manner, and as a result, they face service inconveniences.

In order to ensure that customers are informed about service disruptions due to any scheduled or unforeseen activity, the SBP has issued fresh instructions to facilitate the customers of the financial institutions. As per guidelines, all Regulated Entities (RE) must inform the customers and SBP about any planned activity which may result in the service disruption.

Financial institutions are required to intimate the customers at least two days in advance through various communication channels including but not limited to SMS alerts, social media platforms, in-app notifications, etc. SBP will be notified at least one week in advance for any planned activity.

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In any situation where downtime exceeds by more than two hours of its planned duration, then it should be immediately conveyed to the customers and reported to SBP, the Guidelines said.

In case of unanticipated service disruption for more than thirty minutes, due to any reason, customers must be immediately informed about any disruption of services through the aforementioned communication channels, together with an estimated time of restoration of services and SBP shall be notified. REs will also be required to inform the customers and SBP, once services have resumed as usual.

As per SBP directives, all Regulated Entities including Bank, Microfinance Banks, Payment System Operators (PSOs), Payment Service Providers (PSPs), and Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) must establish mechanisms to continuously monitor social media platforms in order to proactively identify and address customer complaints or issues relating to the availability of digital channels. SBP, as part of its oversight responsibility, will also be regularly monitoring the availability of digital channels.

Cumulative downtimes on a monthly basis will be reported to SBP. In case the unanticipated downtime exceeds more than three hours per quarter, SBP must be informed about the steps taken by respective RE to avoid disruption in future.

Moreover, earlier instructions regarding reporting of planned downtime for the payment card system and clause 10(V) of PSD Circular No. 3 of 2018 related to temporary unavailability of EFT services due to any scheduled maintenance or up-gradation of systems shall stand withdrawn. Any non-compliance shall result in penal actions as per relevant laws and regulations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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