HERNDON, Va. — Nacha, the electronic payments association, has approved an amendment to its operating rules that will let people authorize electronic debits to their accounts over the telephone.

The rule is to take effect March 16.

Currently, debit authorizations over the phone — which can be handy for late payments — need to be done in writing. Under the amendment, oral authorizations can take the place of written ones if they are tape-recorded or if a written confirmation notice is sent to the consumer. The consumer rights and protections that apply to recurring debits are retained by the new rule.

Since July 1999 Nacha has done a pilot test of telephone authorizations. Currently, 34 financial institutions participate. In June 110 companies originated 428,394 transactions through the program. Since the test began, more than two million transactions have been originated this way.

“An electronic debit authorized over the telephone is an easy and convenient option for consumers to make one-time payments,” said Mary O’Toole, vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank and chairwoman of the Nacha work group that developed the rule.

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