Bharti Airtel violated Aadhaar rules

The country’s top telecom operator Bharti Airtel may have to pay fine for violating the rules on using Aadhaar for its electronic know-your-customer verification procedure as said by an official of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The telecom operator has been temporarily suspended from using Aadhaar to authenticate connections and open new payment bank accounts by UIDAI.

The punishment will be based on the number of days the rules were violated and the penalty could run upwards of Rs 2 crore, UIDAI official said. He, added, “According to the Aadhaar Act, the penalty is a few lakhs for each day of violation. 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”.

UIDAI had sent a notice to the company in September after receiving complaints from citizens that it was opening payment bank accounts without the explicit consent of users. It also led to LPG subsidy payments being directed to the accounts.

Airtel said, “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 Bank’s onboarding of customers”.

According to the UIDAI, Aadhaar linking has been made obligatory for phone accounts in order to break down on their ill-use by terrorist and other criminals. Bharati Airtel customers didn’t realize accounts were being opened and subsidies redirected.

Bharti Airtel said UIDAI had brought the matter to its notice and it had sought to make amends. “We had put in a process wherein every customer had to give an explicit consent to open a bank account. The express check within the app was also changed to opt-in mode”, Airtel said.

UIDAI has stated that the mobile app used by Airtel executives to verify connections had a pre-checked box saying that the user wanted to open an Aadhaar-linked payment bank account also.