Major Intervention By TRAI: AirTel’s e-KYC License Suspended For Misusing Aadhar Information From Users!

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Reportedly, the UIDAI has momentarily impeded Bharti Airtel and Airtel Payments Bank from conducting Aadhaar-based SIM verification of mobile customers using the eKYC process as well as e-KYC of payments bank clients.

The lawsuit follows accusations of Bharti Airtel practising the Aadhaar eKYC based SIM verification process to open payments bank accounts of its subscribers without any informed consent.

UIDAI also reaped powerful reluctance to allegations that such payments bank accounts are being connected to host LPG subsidy.

UIDAI, in an interim order, said:

Suspended e-KYC licence key of Bharti Airtel Ltd and Airtel Payment Bank Ltd with immediate effect.

This basically means Airtel would not be effective to, in the interim, carry out electronic-verification or link mobile SIMs of its clients with their 12-digit biometric national ID Aadhaar through the efficient and paperless eKYC anymore.

Also, Airtel Payments Bank will not be authorized to open a new account with Aadhaar e-KYC. Notwithstanding, accounts can be forced through makeshift methods, if feasible.

When reached, an Airtel spokesperson replied:

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 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 with all guidelines is paramount to us. In the interim, any inconvenience to our customers is regretted.

Over 23 lakh customers have reportedly endured as diverse as Rs 47 crores in their Airtel bank accounts, which they did not know had been forced.

Sources said:

It was brought to the notice of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that at the time of mobile verification using Aadhaar e-KYC, the Airtel retailers were also opening Airtel Payments Bank accounts, without the informed consent of the user.

Government LPG subsidy was also becoming conveyed to these accounts, without their approval.

When UIDAI examined the Airtel mobile app, it discovered that when the app is opened, along with the welcome message a pre-ticked permission box is immediately flashed on the screen which states Upgrade or Create my Airtel Payment Bank wallet using existing Airtel mobile KYC.

This was observed to muse boisterous disregard of Aadhaar Act and Regulations.

The alleged claims of Airtel and Airtel Payments Bank were unearthed to be in the subjugation of different sections of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, which mandates obtaining the unambiguous consent of the individual. Breaches are accountable to be fined with Rs 1 lakh per day penalty and termination of authentication user agreements.