UIDAI suspends Airtel, Airtel Payments Bank’s Aadhaar linked e-KYC licence

Airtel

Taking cognizance of alleged involvement in malpractice by telecom major Airtel, the UIDAI has temporarily barred the company and its payments banks arm to conduct Aadhaar-based SIM verification of cellular customers using eKYC process, and e-KYC of payments bank clients.

In an interim order, UIDAI has suspended e-KYC license key of Bharti Airtel and Airtel Payments Bank with immediate effect, reports PTI citing anonymous sources.

The UIDAI crackdown has come into effect after allegations of Airtel using the Aadhaar-eKYC based SIM verification process to open payments bank accounts of its subscribers without their consent.

Over 2.3 million customers have reportedly received about Rs 47 crore in their Airtel bank accounts, which they did not know had been opened.

The cellular major has allegedly been linking payments bank account to receive LPG subsidy. In January this year, the company launched Payments Bank in India.

“We can confirm that we have received an interim order from the UIDAI regarding temporary suspension of Aadhaar linked e-KYC services till their satisfaction on certain processes relating to payment banks onboarding of customers,” said the company spokesperson to PTI.

The company allegedly opened Payments Bank accounts for customers while conducting an Aadhar-based e-KYC verification for mobile connections. This is a serious breach of privacy. Security and privacy of Aadhaar data has been fiercely debated and the apex court is currently looking into its various aspects.

The UIDAI has reviewed the Airtel mobile app, and observed that when the app is opened – a welcome message is accompanied by a pre-ticked consent box with a blurb “Upgrade or create my Payments Bank wallet using existing Airtel mobile KYC.”

Such tactics are a blatant disregard of Aadhaar Act and Regulations.

Following the suspension of the e-KYC license key, UIDAI also ordered audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an audit of Airtel and its Payments Bank to ascertain if their systems and processes are in compliance with the Aadhaar Act or not.

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