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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cheque Truncation System - New Guidelines

Two months after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced the new guidelines for the Cheque Truncation System (CTS) in the National Capital Region, some customers have had a nasty surprise: Many cheques started returning to issuers, due to alterations and over-writing in them.

The CTS is an online image-based cheque clearing system where cheque images and Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) data are captured at the collecting bank branch and transmitted electronically. In this process, the existing system of settlement of payment on the basis of physical cheque movement is eliminated.

The technology was introduced in the NCR and will be subsequently implemented in Chennai by the middle of the year and in other places like Mumbai. This will minimise the scope for frauds and provide benefits to both banks and the customers. As a result, any cheque which has over-writing or other corrections will be returned to the issuer of the cheque. However, changes or correction can be done on dates and for any other changes, one needs to issue a fresh cheque.

The cheque images captured at the presenting bank in the NCR are transmitted to the clearing house for onward transmission to the payee or drawee bank. It is the responsibility of the drawee bank to capture the inward data and images and generate the return file for unpaid instruments.

The electronic image of the cheque is sent to the drawee branch along with the image of the deposit slip which is clipped with the cheque by the customer. CTS reduces the scope for clearing-related frauds and minimises the cost of collection of cheque. For the bank, the benefits would be immense which would help them to introduce new products and optimise resources. Globally, CTS is being practised across many countries for faster clearing of cheques.

The RBI has given a directive to banks prohibiting alterations/corrections on cheques cleared under the image-based CTS. The central bank has also clarified that rule does not apply to cheques cleared under other clearing arrangements such as MICR clearing,non-MICR clearing, over-the-counter collection (for cash payment), or even for direct collection of cheques outside the Clearing House arrangement.

Diwakar Nigam, managing director of Newgen Software, the company which has developed the CTS software in NCR, says the system offers better reconciliation and will help prevent fraud. “It will also help a customer to get clearance within NCR in one day’s time and bring in efficiency in the process. It will also reduce the heavy paper-load as the process will be completely digitalised.” He says the second stage will cover Chennai and other southern regions and then to Mumbai. However, it will take three to five years to implement the process across the country.

Realisation of proceeds of cheques can be done the same day itself and not 3-4 days which is currently the case across the country. For inter-city cheques, it takes two days for the clearance. CTS is more secure and is protected by a comprehensive Public Key Infrastructure-based security architecture which incorporates basis security and authentication checks such as dual access control. It is more secure a system and does not create any delay or inconvenience to the customer in case the cheque is lost in transit.

Bankers say customers should use a dark-colour black ink pen while drawing the instruments and utmost care must be taken while using the rubber stamp and it should not be used on the printed code of the instruments. The physical cheque is warehoused with the presenting bank, in case the customer wants to get back the instrument.

Experts the central bank must conduct an awareness campaign on over-writing and other corrections on cheques. “People usually sign near the correction as that is what has been done for many years. But with CTS, a cheque which has an alteration, even with a signature beside the alteration the bank will not accept the cheque and instead return it to the customer,” says a banker.

Analysts say customers will have to be careful while issuing cheques for credit card payments, utility payments, insurance and investments, as most of them are linked to late payment fees. As a result of the central bank’s new directive, many utilities have been turning away cheques with any form of correction or alteration even if the changes were validated by the cheque drawer’s signature and that too in places either than the NCR. To avoid any late payment charges, they must pay well before time so that in case the cheque is returned, the customer will have enough time to issue a fresh cheque.

Source: Financial Express


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