Airtel to return Rs190 cr gas subsidy in unauthorised accounts

Airtel to return Rs190 cr gas subsidy in unauthorised accounts

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Thursday chose to conditionally allow Bharti Airtel Ltd to resume Aadhaar-based e-KYC verification of telecom subscribers till 10 January.

Airtel in a BSE filing had recently stated, "This is to inform you that on December 16, 2017, Bharti Airtel Limited (Airtel) and Airtel Payments Bank Limited (APBL) (a subsidiary of Airtel), have been served with an Interim Order dated December 15, 2017 by the Unique Identification Authority of India, Government of India ('UIDAI') directing suspension of the e-KYC license key of Airtel / APBL with immediate effect". "We have also taken steps to fix our process".

Nearly a year later, the bank is embroiled in alleged fraudulent transactions; according to media reports, over Rs. 167.7 crore LPG subsidy of 37.21 lakh consumers has been deposited in Airtel Payments Bank accounts till November-end, without taking the "informed consent" of users. Following all the guidelines is important to us. Although, alternative methods are available for that. "In the meantime, we regret the inconvenience caused to our customers". UIDAI has suspected that the mobile app, which is used by Airtel officials to validate the base of subscribers, has a pre-checked box that says they want to open a support linked bank account with it.

The government has issued a notification directing banks and the national payment corporation of India (NPCI) to change the process of mapping Aadhaar-linked bank accounts for government subsidies.

Within days of getting a rap on its knuckles, Airtel on Monday offered to return Rs 190 crore subsidy that had flown into the "unsolicited" Payments Bank accounts of its 31 lakh mobile phone subscribers, sources said today.

Security and privacy of Aadhaar data is a highly sensitive matter and the Supreme Court is looking into its various aspects.

UIDAI has asked Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Department of Telecom (DoT) and audit and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers India to conduct an audit of Bharti Airtel with respect to its systems, processes, applications, documentations and any other aspect as may be identified by RBI and DoT to ensure that the company is in compliance with its licence conditions.

Any violation of these directions shall amount to violation of Sections 37, 40, 41, 42, and 43 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 and Regulations framed, it added.

The replies too were found to be unsatisfactory as UIDAI continued to receive numerous complaints of unauthorized opening of Airtel Payments Bank accounts.

The malpractice came to light after the customer complained that not only was a payments bank main in his name, but the said bank was receiving his LPG subsidy too.

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) had earlier written to Airtel Payments Bank and requested that the subsidy amounts of these consumers be immediately either transferred back to the customers' earlier bank accounts or to the respective oil marketing companies.

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