Economists and stakeholders at a discussion termed the existing service charge for mobile banking excessive and unreasonable, and demanded that the fee be dropped to a single digit.
Addressing the event – organised by the Bangladesh Mobile Phone Consumers' Association (BMPCA) and held at the Dhaka Reporters Unity on Saturday – speakers also demanded a full waiver of a fee for transactions within the same platform and strengthening customer security.
Subrata Roy Maitra, vice-chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), said, "Customers of mobile banking are not getting many of the services usually offered by the banking system. The service charge is also too high."
He continued, "By dropping its service charge, Nagad [a digital financial service in Bangladesh operating under the Bangladesh Post Office] has shown us that the move is also feasible for other operators.
"A reasonable service charge should be set through the Bangladesh Bank's cost modelling," he added.
Mobile banking operators are currently charging their customers a cash out fee of Tk18.5 for per Tk1,000. But Nagad recently dropped their service charge to Tk9.99. Other operators also charge their customers Tk5 for transactions within the same platform, but it is free on Nagad.
The speakers pointed out that Nagad is charging customers Tk9.99, but is still turning a profit. So, there is no reason for other operators to charge Tk18.50 for the same service.
Researcher and author Syed Abul Maksud said the government should consider lowering the service charge for mobile banking to make the lives of marginalised people easier.
Md Azizur Rahman Siddiqui, BTRC's director of System and Services Department, said, "Of the 1.85% service charge, there is no available record on where the Tk0.015 is going from that amount.
"Considering this, around Tk350 crore has so far been unreasonably taken from customers. As long as accountability is not being ensured, the customers will continue to suffer losses."
Economist Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha said, "When considered in terms of the country's economic situation and current reality, the service charge for mobile banking is not reasonable at all.
"I hope that the central bank will take the necessary steps to set up a fair service charge for the mobile banking service, based on feedback from all stakeholders," she added.
Tanvir A Mishuk, managing director of Nagad, said, "All mobile banking service providers operate under strict security protocols, and the customers should also be aware while availing such services.
"Certain rackets might take advantage of a customer's weakness to commit fraud, and customer awareness is very important in preventing such incidents," he said.
He then urged the central bank, BTRC, operators and customers to stay alert and raise awareness on matters of security in the sector.
Mentioning that Nagad's service charge is much lower than that of other mobile banking operators, the company's managing director further said, "We have dropped the service charge to ease the process of mobile banking for the people.
"We are giving the distributors a subsidy, and this move has allowed us to lower the service charge for the customers," he continued.
Presently, around 3.5 crore people regularly avail mobile banking services in Bangladesh, and the number of registered customers is at least eight crore – which is around 45% of the country's total population.
Speakers at the discussion also demanded that the value-added tax (VAT) on all services under the mobile banking sector be dropped from 15% to 5%.
BMPCA's General Secretary Advocate Abu Bakar Siddique moderated and President Mohiuddin Ahmed presided over the programme.
The event was also attended by Ruhin Hossain Prince, central member of the Communist Party of Bangladesh and Prof Dr Khaled Mahmud of the Institute of Business Administration at Dhaka University.