Airtel Payments Bank has been granted approval from the Reserve Bank of India to start adding customers again. In a press statement, the company said, “Airtel Payments Bank has received requisite approvals from The Reserve Bank of India to start on-boarding new customers. Airtel Payments Bank has also been permitted by the UIDAI to resume the on-boarding of customers using Aaadhaar based e-KYC. We thank the authorities for the approvals. We remain committed to the Government’s vision of financial inclusion and banking for all.”
This comes seven months after the service was banned by TRAI from conducting any Aadhaar-based e-KYC verifications of customers for its payments banks. The ban came into effect after Airtel was found opening new Payments Bank accounts for its customers, using the Aadhaar-eKYC SIM linking process, without their informed consent. A previous report suggested that as much as Rs 47 Crore was deposited in the Airtel Payments Bank accounts of over 23 lakh Airtel customers without their knowledge. As a result, Airtel was barred by the UIDAI from linking customer’s SIMs with Aadhaar numbers and customers were unable to open a new Airtel Payments Bank accounts using Aadhaar-eKYC verification.
ToI said, quoting a source close to the matter, "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 2016." Responding to the UIDAI’s order, Airtel gave a statement saying, "We can confirm that we have received 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.”
Additionally, the UIDAI previously noted that when the Airtel app boots up, it displays a user agreement to "Upgrade or create my Airtel Payment Bank wallet using existing Airtel mobile KYC," which is pre-checked. Users click on the agreement unknowingly and the practice was also considered a violation of the Aadhaar Act. The UIDAI had then ordered an audit of the telecom operator and its Payments Bank service.