RBI MASTER DIRECTION -RBI (Regulatory Framework for Microfinance Loans) Directions, 2022

RBI MASTER DIRECTION -RBI (Regulatory Framework for Microfinance Loans) Directions, 2022

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RBI MASTER DIRECTION -RBI (Regulatory Framework for Microfinance Loans) Directions, 2022

 

 

AuthorCIT V. M. VENKATESWARA RAO (2015) 370 ITR 212 HOB’BLE APPELLATE TRIBUNAL, AP

CS Deepak P. Singh


Master Direction – RBI (Regulatory Framework for Microfinance Loans) Directions, 2022.

To
All Commercial Banks (including Small Finance Banks, Local Area Banks and Regional Rural Banks) excluding Payments Bank.
 All Primary (Urban) Co-operative Banks/ State Co-operative Banks/ District Central Co-operative Bank.;
 All Non-Banking Financial Companies (including Microfinance Institutions and Housing Finance Companies.) 
Madam/ Dear Sir, 
Master Direction – Reserve Bank of India (Regulatory Framework for Microfinance Loans) Directions, 2022 
The RBI has issued a consultative document on regulation of microfinance loans was issued for public comments on June 14, 2021 and  Based on the feedback received, it has now been decided to put in place the directions for microfinance loans which are as follow; 
In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 21, Section 35A and Section 56 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949; Chapter IIIB of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934; and Sections 30A and Section 32 of the National Housing Bank Act, 1987, the Reserve Bank, being satisfied that it is necessary and expedient in the public interest so to do, hereby, issues the directions hereinafter specified. 
1.Short Title and Commencement 
1.1 These directions shall be called the Reserve Bank of India (Regulatory Framework for Microfinance Loans) Directions, 2022. 
1.2 These directions shall be effective from April 01, 2022, subject to stipulations as at paragraphs 5.3 and 9.3. 
2. Applicability 
2.1  The provisions of these directions shall apply to the following entities:
 i. All Commercial Banks (including Small Finance Banks, Local Area Banks, and Regional Rural Banks) excluding Payments Banks; 
ii. All Primary (Urban) Co-operative Banks/ State Co-operative Banks/ District Central Co-operative Banks; and 
iii. All Non-Banking Financial Companies (including Microfinance Institutions and Housing Finance Companies).
    2.2. The entities mentioned at points 2.1(i) to 2.1(iii) above are hereafter referred to as ‘Regulated Entities (REs)’ for the purpose of these directions. 
  1. Definition of Microfinance Loan
     3.1 A microfinance loan is defined as a collateral-free loan given to a household having annual household income up to ₹3,00,000. For this purpose, the household shall mean an individual family unit, i.e., husband, wife and their unmarried children. 
     3.2  All collateral-free loans, irrespective of end use and mode of application/ processing/ disbursal (either through physical or digital channels), provided to low-income households, i.e., households having annual income up to ₹3,00,000, shall be considered as microfinance loans.
    3.3  To ensure collateral-free nature of the microfinance loan, the loan shall not be linked with a lien on the deposit account of the borrower. 
    3.4  The REs shall have a board-approved policy to provide the flexibility of repayment periodicity on microfinance loans as per borrowers’ requirement. 
4.  Assessment of Household Income 
4.1  Each RE shall put in place a board-approved policy for assessment of household income. An indicative methodology for assessment of household income is provided in Annex I.
4.2 Self-regulatory organisations (SROs) and other associations/ agencies may also develop a common framework based on the indicative methodology. The REs may adopt/ modify this framework suitably as per their requirements with approval of their boards.
4.3 Each RE shall mandatorily submit information regarding household income to the Credit Information Companies (CICs). Reasons for any divergence between the already reported household income and assessed household income shall be specifically ascertained from the borrower/s before updating the assessed household income with CICs. 
  1. Limit on Loan Repayment Obligations of a Household
5.1 Each RE shall have a board-approved policy regarding the limit on the outflows on account of repayment of monthly loan obligations of a household as a percentage of the monthly household income. This shall be subject to a limit of maximum 50 per cent of the monthly household income. 
5.2 The computation of loan repayment obligations shall take into account all outstanding loans (collateral-free microfinance loans as well as any other type of collateralized loans) of the household. The outflows capped at 50 per cent of the monthly household income shall include repayments (including both principal as well as interest component) towards all existing loans as well as the loan under consideration. 
5.3 Existing loans, for which outflows on account of repayment of monthly loan obligations of a household as a percentage of the monthly household income exceed the limit of 50 per cent, shall be allowed to mature. However, in such cases, no new loans shall be provided to these households till the prescribed limit of 50 per cent is complied with. 
5.4 Each RE shall provide timely and accurate data to the CICs and use the data available with them to ensure compliance with the level of indebtedness. Besides, the RE shall also ascertain the same from other sources such as declaration from the borrowers, their bank account statements and local enquiries. 
  1.  Pricing of Loans
6.1 Each RE shall put in place a board-approved policy regarding pricing of microfinance loans which shall, inter alia, cover the following: 
i) A well-documented interest rate model/ approach for arriving at the all-inclusive interest rate; 
ii) Delineation of the components of the interest rate such as cost of funds, risk premium and margin, etc. in terms of the quantum of each component based on objective parameters; 
iii) The range of spread of each component for a given category of borrowers; and 
iv) A ceiling on the interest rate and all other charges applicable to the microfinance loans. 
    6.2 Interest rates and other charges/ fees on microfinance loans should not be usurious. These shall be subjected to supervisory scrutiny by the Reserve Bank. 
     6.3  Each RE shall disclose pricing related information to a prospective borrower in a standardised simplified factsheet (in accordance with the illustration provided in Annex II). 
    6.4  Any fees to be charged to the microfinance borrower by the RE and/ or its partner/ agent shall be explicitly disclosed in the factsheet. The borrower shall not be charged any amount which is not explicitly mentioned in the factsheet.
    6.5  The factsheet shall also be provided for other loans (i.e., collateralized loans) extended to borrowers from low-income households.
     6.6  There shall be no pre-payment penalty on microfinance loans. Penalty, if any, for delayed payment shall be applied on the overdue amount and not on the entire loan amount. 
    6.7  Each RE shall prominently display the minimum, maximum and average interest rates charged on microfinance loans in all its offices, in the literature (information booklets/ pamphlets) issued by it and details on its website. This information shall also be included in the supervisory returns and subjected to supervisory scrutiny. 
     6.8  Any change in interest rate or any other charge shall be informed to the borrower well in advance and these changes shall be effective only prospectively. 
     6.9  As part of their awareness campaigns, SROs/ other industry associations may publish the range of interest rates on microfinance loans charged by their members operating in a district. SROs/ other industry associations may also sensitize their members against charging of usurious interest rates. 
   6.10  RBI would also make available information regarding interest charged by REs on microfinance loans. 
  1. Guidelines on Conduct towards Microfinance Borrowers 
     7.1 General 
    7.1.1 A fair practices code (FPC) based on these directions shall be put in place by all REs with the approval of their boards. The FPC shall be displayed by the RE in all its offices and on its website. The FPC should be issued in a language understood by the borrower.
   7.1.2 There shall be a standard form of loan agreement for microfinance loans in a language understood by the borrower. 
   7.1.3 Each RE shall provide a loan card to the borrower which shall incorporate the following: Information which adequately identifies the borrower; 
i) Simplified factsheet on pricing; 
ii) All other terms and conditions attached to the loan; 
iii) Acknowledgements by the RE of all repayments including instalments received and the final discharge; and 
iv) Details of the grievance redressal system, including the name and contact number of the nodal officer of the RE. 
7.1.4 All entries in the loan card should be in a language understood by the borrower. 
7.1.5 Issuance of non-credit products shall be with full consent of the borrowers and fee structure for such products shall be explicitly communicated to the borrower in the loan card itself. 
7.2 Training of Staff 
7.2.1 Each RE shall have a board-approved policy regarding the conduct of employees and system for their recruitment, training and monitoring. This policy shall, inter alia, lay down minimum qualifications for the staff and shall provide necessary training tools to deal with the customers. Training to employees shall include programs to inculcate appropriate behavior towards customers. Conduct of employees towards customers shall also be incorporated appropriately in their compensation matrix. 
7.2.2 Field staff shall be trained to make necessary enquiries regarding the income and existing debt of the household. 
7.2.3 Training, if any, offered to the borrowers shall be free of cost. 
7.3 Responsibilities for Outsourced Activities 
7.3.1 Outsourcing of any activity by the RE does not diminish its obligations and the onus of compliance with these directions shall rest solely with the RE. 
7.3.2 A declaration that the RE shall be accountable for inappropriate behaviour by its employees or employees of the outsourced agency and shall provide timely grievance redressal, shall be made in the loan agreement and also in the FPC displayed in its office/ branch premises/ website. 
7.4 Guidelines related to Recovery of Loans 
7.4.1 Each RE shall put in place a mechanism for identification of the borrowers facing repayment related difficulties, engagement with such borrowers and providing them necessary guidance about the recourse available. 
7.4.2 Recovery shall be made at a designated/ central designated place decided mutually by the borrower and the RE. However, field staff shall be allowed to make recovery at the place of residence or work of the borrower if the borrower fails to appear at the designated/ central designated place on two or more successive occasions. 
7.4.3 RE or its agent shall not engage in any harsh methods towards recovery. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, following practices shall be deemed as harsh:
i) Use of threatening or abusive language Persistently calling the borrower and/ or calling the borrower before 9:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m. 
ii) Harassing relatives, friends, or co-workers of the borrower Publishing the name of borrowers Use or threat of use of violence or other similar means to harm the borrower or borrower’s family/ assets/ reputation Misleading the borrower about the extent of the debt or the consequences of non-repayment. 
7.4.4 Each RE shall have a dedicated mechanism for redressal of recovery related grievances. The details of this mechanism shall be provided to the borrower at the time of loan disbursal. 
7.5 Engagement of Recovery Agents 
7.5.1 Recovery agents shall mean agencies engaged by the RE for recovery of dues from its borrowers and the employees of these agencies. 
7.5.2 The REs shall have a due diligence process in place for engagement of recovery agents, which shall, inter alia, cover individuals involved in the recovery process. REs shall ensure that the recovery agents engaged by them carry out verification of the antecedents of their employees, which shall include police verification. REs shall also decide the periodicity at which re-verification of antecedents shall be resorted to. 
7.5.3 To ensure due notice and appropriate authorization, the RE shall provide the details of recovery agents to the borrower while initiating the process of recovery. The agent shall also carry a copy of the notice and the authorization letter from the RE along with the identity card issued to him by the RE or the agency. Further, where the recovery agency is changed by the RE during the recovery process, in addition to the RE notifying the borrower of the change, the new agent shall carry the notice and the authorization letter along with his identity card. 
7.5.4 The notice and the authorization letter shall, among other details, also include the contact details of the recovery agency and the RE.
 7.5.5 The up-to-date details of the recovery agencies engaged by the RE shall also be hosted on the RE’s website. 
  1. Qualifying Assets Criteria 
8.1  Under the earlier qualifying assets criteria, a Non-banking Financial Company -Microfinance Institution (NBFC-MFI) is required to have minimum 85 per cent of its net assets as ‘qualifying assets’. The definition of ‘qualifying assets’ of NBFC-MFIs is now being aligned with the definition of ‘microfinance loans’ given at paragraph 3 above. 
The minimum requirement of microfinance loans for NBFC-MFIs also stands revised to 75 per cent of the total assets. 
8.2  the earlier guidelines, an NBFC that does not qualify as an NBFC-MFI, cannot extend microfinance loans exceeding 10 per cent of its total assets. The maximum limit on microfinance loans for such NBFCs (i.e., NBFCs other than NBFC-MFIs) now stands revised to 25 per cent of the total assets. 
  1. Exemption for ‘Not for Profit’ Companies engaged in Microfinance Activities
9.1  The definition of microfinance loans for ‘not for profit’ companies (registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013) is now aligned with the revised definition of microfinance loans viz., collateral-free loans to households with annual household income up to ₹3,00,000, provided the monthly loan obligations of a household does not exceed 50 per cent of the monthly household income. 
9.2  Exemptions from Sections 45-IA, 45-IB and 45-IC of the RBI Act, 1934 have been withdrawn for those ‘not for profit’ companies engaged in microfinance activities that have asset size of ₹100 crore and above. 
9.3  ‘Not for profit’ companies that are not eligible for the exemptions mentioned at paragraph 9.2 above, are required to register as NBFC-MFIs and adhere to the regulations applicable to NBFC-MFIs. Such companies shall submit the application for registration as an NBFC-MFI to the Reserve Bank within three months of the issuance of this circular. Those companies that currently do not comply with the regulations prescribed for NBFC-MFIs, shall submit a board-approved plan, with a roadmap to meet the prescribed regulations, along with their application for registration. 
  1. Net Owned Fund (NOF) Requirement Existing NBFC-MFIs shall adhere to the NOF glidepath indicated under paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Circular dated October 22, 2021 on ‘Scale Based Regulation (SBR):
A Revised Regulatory Framework for NBFCs’ as given below: 
NBFCs
CURRENT NOF
BY MARCH 31,2025
BY MARCH 31,2027
NBFC-MFIs
Rs. 5.00 Crores(Rs. 2.00 Crores in NE Region) 
Rs. 7.00 Crores(Rs. 5.00 Crores in NE Region)
Rs. 10.00 Crores
PLEASE NOTE THAT :
 In order to be classified as a ‘qualifying asset’, a loan is required to satisfy the following criteria:
(i) Loan which is disbursed to a borrower with household annual income not exceeding ₹1,25,000 and ₹2,00,000 for rural and urban/semi-urban households, respectively;
(ii) Loan amount does not exceed ₹75,000 in the first cycle and ₹1,25,000 in subsequent cycles;
(iii) Total indebtedness of the borrower does not exceed ₹1,25,000 (excluding loan for education and medical expenses);
(iv) Minimum tenure of 24 months for loan amount exceeding ₹30,000;
(v) Collateral free loans without any prepayment penalty;
(vi) Minimum 50 per cent of aggregate amount of loans for income generation activities; and
(vii) Flexibility of repayment periodicity (weekly, fortnightly or monthly) at borrower’s choice.
2 Net assets have been defined as total assets other than cash, bank balances and money market instruments.
SECTION 45-IA: Requirement of registration as an NBFC
Section 45-IA in The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934- Requirement of registration and net owned fund.—
(1) Notwith-standing anything contained in this Chapter or in any other law for the time being in force, no non-banking financial company shall commence or carry on the business of a non-banking financial institution without—
(a) obtaining a certificate of registration issued under this Chapter; and
(b) having the net owned fund of twenty-five lakh rupees or such other amount, not exceeding two hundred lakh rupees, as the Bank may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify.
(2) Every non-banking financial company shall make an application for registration to the Bank in such form as the Bank may specify: Provided that a non-banking financial company in existence on the commencement of the Reserve Bank of India (Amendment) Act, 1997 shall make an application for registration to the Bank before the expiry of six months from such commencement and notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1) may continue to carry on the business of a non-banking financial institution until a certificate of registration is issued to it or rejection of application for registration is communicated to it.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), a non-banking financial company in existence on the commencement of the Reserve Bank of India (Amendment) Act, 1997 and having a net owned fund of less than twenty-five lakh rupees may, for the purpose of enabling such company to fulfil the requirement of the net owned fund, continue to carry on the business of a non-banking financial institution—
(i) for a period of there years from such commencement; or
(ii) for such further period as the Bank may, after recording the reasons in writing for so doing, extend, subject to the condition that such company shall, within three months of fulfilling the requirement of the net owned fund, inform the Bank about such fulfilment: Provided that the period allowed to continue business under this sub-section shall in no case exceed six years in the aggregate.
(4) The Bank, for the purpose of considering the application for registration, may require to be satisfied by an inspection of the books of the non-banking financial company or otherwise that the following conditions are fulfilled:—
(a) that the non-banking financial company is or shall be in a position to pay its present or future depositors in full as and when their claims accrue;
(b) that the affairs of the non-banking financial company are not being or are not likely to be conducted in a manner detrimental to the interest of its present or future depositors;
(c) that the general character of the management or the proposed management of the non-banking financial company shall not be prejudicial to the public interest or the interests of its depositors;
(d) that the non-banking financial company has adequate capital structure and earning prospects;
(e) that the public interest shall be served by the grant of certificate of registration to the non-banking financial company to commence or to carry on the business of India;
(f) that the grant of certificate of registration shall not be prejudicial to the operation and consolidation of the financial sector consistent with monetary stability and economic growth considering such other relevant factors which the Bank may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify; and
(g) any other condition, fulfilment of which in the opinion of the Bank, shall be necessary to ensure that the commencement of or carrying on of the business in India by a non-banking financial company shall not be prejudicial to the public interest or in the interests of the depositors.
(5) The Bank may, after being satisfied that the conditions specified in sub-section (4) are fulfilled, grant a certificate of registration subject to such conditions which it may consider fit to impose.
(6) The Bank cancel a certificate of registration granted to a non-banking financial company under this section if such company—
(i) ceases to carry on the business of a non-banking financial institution in India; or
(ii) has failed to comply with any condition subject to which the certificate of registration had been issued to it; or
(iii) at any time fails to fulfil any of the conditions referred to in clauses (d) to (g) of sub-section (4); or
(iv) fails—
(a) to comply with any direction issued by the Bank under the provisions of this Chapter; or
(b) to maintain accounts in accordance with the requirements of any law or any direction or order issued by the Bank under the provisions of this Chapter; or
(c) to submit or offer for inspection its books of account and other relevant documents when so demanded by an inspecting authority of the Bank; or
(v) has been prohibited from accepting deposit by an order made by the Bank under the provisions of this Chapter and such order has been in force for a period of not less than three months: Provided that before cancelling a certificate of registration on the ground that the non-banking financial company has failed to company with the provisions of clause (ii) or has failed to fulfil any of the conditions referred to in clause (iii) the Bank, unless it is of the opinion that the delay in cancelling the certificate of registration shall be prejudicial to public interest or the interest of the depositors or the non-banking financial company, shall give an opportunity to such company on such term as the Bank may specify for taking necessary steps to comply with such provision or fulfilment of such condition: Provided further that before making any order of cancellation of certificate of registration, such company shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.
(7) A company aggrieved by the order of rejection of application for registration or cancellation of certificate of registration may prefer an appeal, within a period of thirty days from the date on which such order of rejection or cancellation is communicated to it, to the Central Government and the decision of the Central Government where an appeal has been preferred to it, or of the Bank where no appeal has been preferred, shall be final: Provided that before making any order of rejection of appeal, such company shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.
(Explanations) —For the purposes of this section,—
(I) “net owned fund” means—
(a) the aggregate of the paid-up equity capital and free reserves as disclosed in the latest balance-sheet of the company after deducting there from—
(i) accumulated balance of loss;
(ii) deferred revenue expenditure; and
(iii) other intangible assets; and
(b) further reduced by the amounts representing— (1) investments of such company in shares of—
(i) its subsidiaries;
(ii) companies in the same group;
(iii) all other non-banking financial companies; and
(2) the book value of debentures, bonds, outstanding loans and advances (including hire-purchase and lease finance) made to, and deposits with,—
(i) subsidiaries of such company; and
(ii) companies in the same group, to the extent such book value exceeds ten per cent, of (a) above.
(II) “subsidiaries” and “companies in the same group” shall have the same meanings assigned to them in the Companies Act, 1956, (1 of 1956).
SECTION  45-IB: Maintenance of a certain percentage of outstanding deposits in approved securities by deposit taking NBFCs
Section 45-IB in The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934
45-IB. Maintenance of percentage of assets.—
(1) Every non-banking financial company shall invest and continue to invest in India in unencumbered approved securities, valued at a price not exceeding the current market price of such securities, an amount which, at the close of business on any day, shall not be less than five per cent. or such higher percentage not exceeding twenty-five per cent. as the Bank may, from time to time and by notification in the Official Gazette, specify, of the deposits outstanding at the close of business on the last working day of the second preceding quarter: Provided that the Bank may specify different percentages of investment in respect of different classes of non-banking financial companies.
(2) For the purpose of ensuring compliance with the provisions of this section, the Bank may require every non-banking financial company to furnish a return to it in such form, in such manner and for such period as may be specified by the Bank.
(3) If the amount invested by a non-banking financial company at the close of business on any day falls below the rate specified under sub-section (1), such company shall be liable to pay to the Bank, in respect of such shortfall, a penal interest at a rate of three per cent. per annum above the bank rate on such amount by which the amount actually invested falls short of the specified percentage, and where the shortfall continues in the subsequent quarters, the rate of penal interest shall be five per cent. per annum above the bank rate on such shortfall for each subsequent quarter.
(4) (a) The penal interest payable under sub-section (3) shall be payable within a period of fourteen days from the date on which a notice issued by the Bank demanding payment of the same is served on the non-banking financial company and, in the event of a failure of the non-banking financial company to pay the same within such period, penalty may be levied by a direction of the principal civil court having jurisdiction in the area where an office of the defaulting non-banking financial company is situated and such direction shall be made only upon an application made in this behalf to the court by the Bank; and
(b) when the court makes a direction under clause (a), it shall issue a certificate specifying the sum payable by the non-banking financial company and every such certificate shall be enforceable in the same manner as if it were a decree made by the court in a suit.
(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, if the Bank is satisfied that the defaulting non-banking financial company had sufficient cause for its failure to comply with the provisions of sub-section (1), it may not demand the payment of the penal interest. 
Explanation.—For the purpose of this section,—
(i) “approved securities” means securities of any State Government or of the Central Government and such bonds, both the principal whereof and the interest whereon shall have been fully and unconditionally guaranteed by any such Government;
(ii) “unencumbered approved securities” includes the approved securities lodged by the non-banking financial company with another institution for an advance or any other arrangement to the extent to which such securities have not been drawn against or availed of or encumbered in any manner;
(iii) “quarter” means the period of three months ending on the last day of March, June, September or December.
SECTION  45-IC: Transfer of 20 per cent of net profit to reserve fund
Section 45-IC in The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934- Reserve fund.—
(1) Every non-banking financial company shall create a reserve fund the transfer therein a sum not less than twenty per cent of its net profit every year as disclosed in the profit and loss account and before any dividend is declared.
(2) No appropriation of any sum from the reserve fund shall be made by the non-banking financial company except for the purpose as may be specified by the Bank from time to time and every such appropriation shall be reported to the Bank within twenty-one days from the date of such withdrawal: Provided that the Bank may, in any particular case and for sufficient cause being shown, extend the period of twenty-one days by such further period as it thinks fit or condone any delay in making such report.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the Central Government may, on the recommendation of the Bank and having regard to the adequacy of the paid-up capital and reserves of a non-banking financial company in relation to its deposit liabilities, declare by order in writing that the provisions of sub-section (1) shall not be applicable to the non-banking financial company for such period as may be specified in the order: Provided that no such order shall be made unless the amount in the reserve fund under sub-section (1) together with the amount in the share premium account is not less than the paid-up capital of the non-banking financial company.
DISCLAIMER:  above  article is only for sharing information with readers. In case of necessity do consult with professionals.
Reference: https://rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=12256&Mode=0

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