Did Bharti Airtel violate Aadhaar Act? UIDAI probing telco over LPG subsidy landing in payments bank accounts

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include Airtel's response.

The Unique Identification Authority of India has said it has ordered an inquiry against Bharti Airtel for alleged violation of Aadhaar Act, according to a report in Times of India. UIDAI has also said it will slap a financial penalty on Bharti Airtel if charges against the telecom operator are proved.



It has been alleged that country's largest telecom company is opening accounts in Airtel Payments Bank without the knowledge of the customers. The issue came to light when some customers complained that their subsidy under government's direct benefit transfer, DBT, scheme was being deposited in Airtel Payments Bank accounts. Earlier, the subsidy was coming into the accounts designated by the customers for the same purpose, it has been revealed.

It is estimated the subsidy amount that got into Airtel Payments Bank accounts was more than Rs 40 crore. It has also been reported that UIDAI had served a showcause notice to Bharti Airtel as soon as the complaints against the company started to pour in.

Sources told TOI the agency decided to go for a probe after it was revealed the complaints of prima facie violations were found to be true. "The lapses are serious in nature. Prima facie, it is a criminal breach of trust and contract, and there are violations of provisions of the Aadhaar Act." The customers who came forward with complaints say that they were unaware that Airtel Payments Bank had opened an account in their name.

Bharti Airtel has denied the violation of Aadhaar Act reports in a statement saying, "Airtel Payments Bank is fully compliant with all guidelines and follows a stringent customer on-boarding process." The telecom operator also clarified that Airtel Payments Bank accounts are opened only after taking consent from the customer.

Airtel's response is as follows:

“Bharti Airtel Limited provides telecommunication services and uses the Aadhaar data base for the purposes of mobile services KYC. Bharti Airtel is an authorised AUA, KUA and ASA of UIDAI having signed the License Agreements. Airtel Payments Bank, a separate entity, is the Payments bank having issued a license by the RBI and is an authorised AUA and KUA of UIDAI having signed the License Agreements.

The re-verification for mobile phones and the opening of Airtel Payment Bank Account are separate transactions and not linked.

Airtel Payments Bank is fully compliant with all guidelines and follows a stringent customer on-boarding process. All Airtel Payments Bank accounts are opened only after explicit consent from the customer. A separate consent for Direct Benefit Transfer is taken from all customers. As per the applicable guidelines, DBT amounts are automatically credited to the most recent Aadhaar linked bank account of a customer. If the Airtel Payments Bank account is the latest Aadhaar linked account opened by a customer, the DBT automatically gets routed to it.

Airtel Payments Bank also ensures that the customers are duly notified about the subsidy credit via SMS and an automated call (available in 12 languages) saying ‘The govt. subsidy of Rs X has been credited to your Airtel Payments Bank Account’ and also as and when any interest amount is credited. The balance in Airtel Payments Bank Savings accounts can be withdrawn by customers at any Airtel Store or transferred to any bank account. There are no charges on the first cash withdrawal in a month.

We continue to educate retailers and strengthen our processes to ensure transparency to customers and compliance with all regulations.”

Updated Date: Nov 30, 2017 18:23 PM

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