The Central Bank of Malta has issued a new directive, Directive 17, providing local banks with leeway in providing essential services due to the disruptions caused by COVID.
The directive sets maximum outages allowed to banks “as part of their contingency arrangements, when providing essential services to their clients”.
These services include the deposit and withdrawal of cash, the deposit, encashment and clearing of paper-based instruments, such as cheques, bank drafts and similar instruments, and the provision of services through alternative delivery channels.
With regards the depositing of cash, banks may take a maximum of three days to clear the transaction, while banks’ time to clear cheques and drafts has been extended temporarily from three days to a maximum of six days.
The changes, which were made in consultation with banks, are a temporary measure during the current wave of coronavirus induced disruptions, the Central Bank stressed.
This legislation, which came into force on 1st January, allows banks to lengthen the time taken to provide services to their clients when they are under contingency situations.
The new legislation also takes into account the concerns of banks with regards to the wellbeing of their own staff, while at the same time, as service providers, they continue to place emphasis on the use of ATMs to reduce the number of people who need to rely on over-the-counter services.
In the meantime, banks must still provide over-the-counter cash deposit services for all those customers who do not have access to alternatives such as ATMs. Customers in this category are however encouraged to enroll into one of the many existing possibilities offered by the financial services community, the use of which are more aligned with current recommendations by the National Health Authorities.
Last year, the Central Bank issued a sew of new rules for the use of cheques, which also came into force from January 2022. These include the banning of cheques under €20 while service providers are prohibited from encashing cheques for amounts above €5,000.
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