As stated, Airtel Payments Bank e-KYC license is also temporarily banned, and the operator will not be able to open a new account using Aadhaar e-KYC. Subsidies of nearly 4.7 million LPG customers amounting to Rs 167 crore is said to have been transferred to such accounts.
Earlier this month, Airtel responded to UIDAI probing its Aadhaar linked e-KYC services with, “We confirm that the company is dealing with the notices received from the authority and is in the process of providing the response thereto”. UIDAI further said that such payments bank accounts are being linked to receive LPG subsidy. Further details are awaited.
Both Bharti Airtel and Airtel Payments Bank 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 authentication services provided by the authority.
Of these, about 11 lakh gas customers belong to Indian Oil while the balance is evenly split between Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum, according to a communication sent by a state oil company to National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) that maps bank accounts with Aadhaar and oversees retail payments and settlement systems in the country.
This malpractice was exposed after UIDAI investigated a person’s complaint alleging that Airtel opened a payments bank account in his name and linked his LPG subsidy to it, all without his knowledge or consent. The move may disrupt new payment bank accounts opening, especially since rival Reliance Jio is preparing for the launch of its own payment bank soon.
“A notice has already been sent to the company and a final amount will be decided after PwC – which has been engaged by us -finishes its audit”. Such violations are punishable with a fine of Rs 1 lakh per day and may result in termination of authentication user agreements. We are also undertaking to complete the said actions on priority and have commenced thorough checks of our process flows.
These replies were found to be unsatisfactory by UIDAI, which issued another notice on November 24. Amidst a brazen violation of user’s privacy and breach of trust in opening accounts without their users’ express consent, we are forced to ask, “What more violations has Airtel committed?” Sources said the interim order listed out some of the complaints and went on to state that Airtel and Airtel Bank had made “false statements” to “deceive and mislead” UIDAI.