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UIDAI suspends Airtel, Airtel Payments Bank's e-KYC licence

This essentially means Airtel would not be able to, in the interim, carry out 'electronic-verification' or link mobile SIMs of its customers with Aadhaar

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

UIDAI suspends Airtel, Airtel Payments Bank's e-KYC licence

In its strongest action yet, the UIDAI has temporarily barred and from conducting Aadhaar-based SIM verification of mobile customers using eKYC process as well as e-KYC of clients. The action follows allegations of using the Aadhaar-eKYC based SIM verification process to open accounts of its subscribers without their 'informed consent'. UIDAI also took strong objection to allegations that such accounts are being linked to receive LPG subsidy. UIDAI, in an interim order, "suspended e-KYC licence key of Ltd and Ltd with immediate effect," sources with direct knowledge of the development said. This essentially means Airtel would not be able to, in the interim, carry out 'electronic-verification' or link mobile SIMs of its customers with their 12-digit biometric national ID though the efficient and paperless eKYC (or electronic Know Your Customer) process of UIDAI. Also, will not be able to open a new account with e-KYC. However, accounts can be opened through alternate methods, if available. When contacted, an Airtel spokesperson said: "We can confirm that we have received interim order from the UIDAI regarding temporary suspension of linked e-KYC services till their satisfaction on certain processes relating to Airtel payment banks onboarding of customers." "We are engaging with the authority and are hopeful of an early resolution.

We are also undertaking to complete the said actions on priority and have commenced thorough checks of our process flows. "Being compliant to all guidelines is paramount to us. In the interim, any inconvenience to our customers is regretted," the spokesperson said. More than 23 lakh customers have reportedly received as many as Rs 47 crore in their accounts, which they did not know had been opened. Sources said it was brought to the notice of the (UIDAI) that at the time of mobile verification using e-KYC, the Airtel retailers were also opening accounts, without informed consent of the user. Government LPG subsidy was also getting transferred to these accounts, without their consent. UIDAI observed that as per agreement with the authority, Airtel and are duty bound and under obligation to ensure security and privacy of residents' identity information. Security and privacy of data is a highly sensitive matter and the is looking into its various aspects. Suspending the 'e-KYC licence key', UIDAI ordered PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an audit of and to ascertain if their systems and processes are in compliance with the Act. UIDAI may consider revocation of suspension or decide further necessary action upon receipt of the report. The alleged actions of Airtel and were found to be in violation of different sections of the Act, 2016, which mandates obtaining explicit consent of the individual. Violations are liable to be punished with Rs 1 lakh per day fine and termination of authentication user agreements. Both and were appointed as Authentication User Agencies (AUA) by UIDAI and had entered into an agreement with UIDAI in February 2015 and September 2016 respectively for the purposes of availing provided by the authority. Sources said in response to the first notice of September 18, Airtel and stated that they have amended their process and the opening of a account is completely de- linked from the process of re-verification of mobile connection. These replies were found to be unsatisfactory by UIDAI, which issued another notice on November 24. The company responded by saying no account was opened without the consent of the customers and additional safeguards have been introduced. The replies too were found to be unsatisfactory as UIDAI continued to receive numerous complaints of unauthorised opening of Airtel accounts. Sources said the interim order listed out some of the complaints and went on to state that Airtel and had made "false statements" to "deceive and mislead" UIDAI. When UIDAI reviewed the Airtel mobile app, it found that when the app is opened, along with the welcome message a pre- ticked consent box is momentarily flashed on the screen which states "Upgrade or create my wallet using existing Airtel mobile KYC." This was found to reflect blatant disregard of Act and Regulations.

First Published: Sun, December 17 2017. 00:31 IST