CA Manish Mishra discussing RBI’s New Guidelines on Penal Charges on Loans

Understanding RBI’s New Guidelines on Penal Charges on Loans

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently issued guidelines on penal charges for loans, marking a significant shift in lending practices across the country. Effective from August 18, 2023, these guidelines apply to major banks, smaller cooperatives, and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).

The aim is to promote responsible lending and transparency. By simplifying borrowing processes, borrowers gain clarity on loan terms, fostering trust and confidence in the lending ecosystem. Essentially, it sets the stage for a lending environment where people are well-informed and confident about their financial commitments.

Key aspects of the new guidelines:

Penal Charges vs. Penal Interest: It’s crucial to distinguish between penal charges and penal interest, as penal charges are distinct from the loan’s interest rate and cannot be imposed as “penal interest.”

Reasonableness and Proportionality: Charges should be reasonable and proportionate to the severity of non-compliance, avoiding blanket charges that lack fairness.

Non-Discriminatory Application: Charges must be applied uniformly within the same loan or product category, ensuring fairness across individual and non-individual borrowers.

Transparency and Clarity: Lenders must have a Board-approved policy outlining their penal charges structure, clearly communicating it to borrowers to ensure transparency.

No Compounding: Compounding of penal charges, including interest on interest, is prohibited to safeguard borrowers’ financial interests.

Implementation Timeline: The guidelines apply to new loans from April 1, 2024, and to existing loans by June 30, 2024, at the next review or renewal date, providing a clear timeline for compliance.

Applicability of the new RBI guidelines on penal charges for loans

The applicability of the new RBI guidelines on penal charges for loans depends on two factors: the type of loan and the loan’s timeline.

These guidelines are applicable to a wide array of loan categories, including home loans, personal loans, car loans, educational loans, credit card loans, and overdraft facilities. They are designed to ensure consistency and fairness in the application of penal charges across these retail lending segments. However, trade credit, structured obligations, and wholesale loans to businesses are excluded from these regulations. This ensures clarity and specificity in the application of penalties while maintaining appropriate regulatory oversight.

The RBI’s new guidelines on penal charges apply to loans sanctioned from April 1, 2024, onwards. For existing loans sanctioned before this date, compliance begins either at the next review/renewal date or within six months from August 18, 2023, with a deadline extension to June 30, 2024. This phased approach ensures a smooth transition while maintaining fairness in lending practices.

Securitisation and Co-lending Portfolios

The RBI rules are vital for charges in securitization and co-lending. In securitization, focus on clarity of loans, ensuring transparency throughout the process. Co-lending shared responsibility, so fair practices matter in all transactions.

Applicability of GST

Due to the lack of clear guidelines, the GST applicability on penal charges remains uncertain. RBI aligns with GST exemption for loan interest, but recent changes create confusion.

Application of Circular on Bank Guarantee/ Letter of Credit Invocation

RBI’s Circular on BG/LC Invocation means banks must stick to guarantee terms, promptly paying when beneficiaries ask. It keeps things fair and stable. Resolve issues peacefully, saving legal action as a last resort for smooth banking.

Applicability to Cash Credit and Overdraft Facilities:

RBI’s guidelines cover all retail loans, including Credit Card (CC) and Overdraft (OD) facilities, except for trade credit and structured obligations.

Applicability of Guidelines in Case of Default:

The RBI’s new guidelines on penal charges do not directly address loan defaults. They primarily focus on non-compliance situations like exceeding withdrawal limits, missed minimum balance requirements, and late payments.

However, lenders have the flexibility to define separate policies for charges in case of default within their overall credit risk management framework

Compliance and action points for lenders

The circular mandates regulated entities to:

  • Create board-approved policies on penal charges, including default scenarios and charge determination principles.
  • Disclose penal charges and reasons in loan agreements.
  • Display key terms on penal charges on their website.
  • Communicate applicable penal charges to borrowers during reminders for non-compliance, including reasons for their imposition.

Impact and Future Direction

The Circular takes effect on January 01, 2024. For new loans, compliance is immediate. Existing loans must implement penal charges during the next review, renewal, or within 6 months from the Circular’s effective date, ensuring adherence to its terms. It aims to make penal charges fairer, transparent, and non-discriminatory, enhancing access to credit and addressing customer grievances.


For existing loans, the transition to the new penal charges regime happens on the next review or renewal date occurring on or after April 1, 2024, or within six months from the circular’s effective date, whichever is earlier.

Penal charges don’t apply to products under the RBI Master Direction on External Commercial Borrowings, Trade Credits, and Structured Obligations..

Material terms and conditions are determined by the bank’s credit policy and may vary depending on loan categories and individual lender assessments.

Penal charges in NPA accounts will be reversed for uncollected amounts, in line with the Master Circular on Income Recognition, Asset Classification, and Provisioning.

Yes, provided the policy is approved by the board and the structure is fair and proportional to the non-compliance.

Follow instructions from the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) regarding GST on penal charges.

RBI’s New Guidelines on Penal Charges on Loans

Gain insights into RBI’s latest guidelines on penal charges imposed on loans. Understand the implications of these regulations and how they impact borrowers, ensuring clarity on financial obligations and penalties.