State Bank of Pakistan on Saturday refuted reports that certain payments to Google are stuck at the central bank, terming all such claims as baseless and misleading.
News reports had been circulating in the media that Google Play Store services will no longer be available to Pakistani users after December 1 as the SBP had suspended the direct carrier billing (DCB) mechanism.
The Telecom ministry, PTA and cellular service operators have approached the SBP to seek revocation of the step, since the move will cause issues for customers.
“It is pertinent to mention here that we all understand the prevailing challenge of worsening economic conditions of the country and thus are open to working in an amicable way with the Regulator (SBP); as we are already working with them in case of the telecom sector imports related transactions to navigate through these testing times,” said the letter sent by the telcos to the SBP.
However, the SBP has refuted all such reports. “Recent news circulating in some sections of the media that certain payments to Google are stuck at State Bank of Pakistan, are baseless and misleading,” a statement from the central bank said, adding that SBP strongly refutes all such assertions.
The statement said that in order to facilitate the domestic entities, SBP specified certain Information Technology (IT) related services, which such entities can acquire from abroad for their own use and make foreign exchange payments there against up to USD 100,000 per invoice.
“Such services include, Satellite Transponder, International Bandwidth/ Internet/ Private Line Services, Software License/Maintenance/Support, and service to use electronic media and databases. Entities desirous of utilising this option designate a bank, which is approved by SBP one time. Subsequently, after designation, such payments can be processed through the designated bank, without any further regulatory approval,” it said.
However, the central bank said, during recent off-site reviews, it was observed that in addition to utilising the aforesaid mechanism to remit funds for IT-related services for their own use, Telcos were remitting bulk of the funds for video gaming, entertainment content, etc. purchased by their customers using airtime, under Direct Carrier Billing (DCB).
“DCB is, in general, an online mobile payment method, which allows users to make purchases by charging payments to their mobile phone carrier bill.”
It said that the Telcos were allowing their customers to purchase above mentioned products through airtime and then remitting funds abroad reflecting such transactions as payments for the acquisition of IT-related services.
“Thus, in effect, the Telcos were acting as intermediaries/ payment aggregators by facilitating the acquisition of services by their subscribers. Therefore, in view of the violation of foreign exchange regulations, SBP revoked the designation of banks of Telcos for such payments,” it added.
SBP said that to facilitate legitimate IT-related payments, Telcos have been advised through their banks to resubmit their requests. “If any entity, including a telco, intends to operate as an intermediary/payment aggregator and such arrangement involves outflow of foreign exchange, it has to approach SBP, separately through its bank, for seeking special permission for providing such services under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947,” it clarified.