Kottayam: Cashless economy may be a lofty dream but prime minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious drive towards digital transactions is taking its toll on the common man. Banks and oil companies are fleecing unsuspecting customers of crores of rupees in stark violation of the promises made by senior ministers.
Every customer who buys motor fuel with a debit card is charged about three percent of the amount as surcharge. If you pay Rs 1,000 using your debit card, your account will be poorer by Rs 28.75 the very next day. Strangely, the surcharge is not applicable for customers who pay by cash.
The shady surcharge flies in the face of Modi’s exhortation to move into a cashless economy. Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan had promised last month that customers who pay by digital modes will not be levied any hidden charges but the loot continues in petrol pumps everywhere. Even union finance minister Arun Jaitley had said that no fee will be charged on digital transactions up to Rs 2,000.
State Bank of India officials said that they had not received any intimation regarding the central government’s decision and they were still charging 2.5 percent as surcharge on every fuel purchase using debit cards.
The central government has offered 0.75 percent incentive for fuel purchases using digital modes but prefers to look the other way when the banks charge up to three percent as surcharge.
The dark side of cashless economy
If you have started swiping your debit card more often, as prodded by the prime minister, you are in for a shock. Most of the people hardly notice when Rs 14.28 is debited from their accounts every time they buy fuel for Rs 500 with a swipe of the card.
The consumers who bought fuel from outlets run by the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited using SBI debit cards had reported the unannounced draw from their accounts. When asked, the dealers said that they were not aware of it. They said that they only charge for the fuel they sell and the rest of the things are looked after by the oil companies and the banks.
A sum almost equal to the commission paid by the oil companies to the dealers is fleeced from the customers as surcharge.
The petroleum minister announced last month that consumers and pump dealers will not be required to pay surcharge on fuel. He said the issue was a row between the oil companies and the banks and it has been settled through talks. The minister also pointed out a circular from last year that pump dealers cannot pass on their liability to the consumers using digital transaction modes.
The minister came out with the explanation after pump dealers threatened to lock down their establishments if the card companies continued to charge them for every transaction after January 13. The dealers said they refused to pay the surcharge as their margins were very low.
Pradhan had offered to sort out the issue by talking to the Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum as well as the banks and urging them to share the burden.
The oil companies and the banks, however, continue to pass on the burden to the consumers. The union government is doing nothing to prevent this fleecing even as the petrol and diesel pumps have turned to be the biggest takers of the exhortation to move towards cashless transactions.