From the Viewsroom

Telcos are misusing Aadhaar

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on March 08, 2018 Published on December 10, 2017

RBI should look into Aadhaar-linked payments accounts

Recent reports on how some telecom companies have taken ignorant consumers for a ride by opening payments bank accounts on behalf their Aadhaar-linked numbers (accounts) without their informed consent and are allegedly flouting rules set by the Aadhaar watchdog, UIDAI, and the RBI, deserves further scrutiny. Media reports suggest that one telecom provider alone was able to tap into ₹50 crore in welfare monies (mainly LPG subsidies) by letting more than 2.4 million users unwittingly sign up to its payments bank service. Existing rules show that subsidies are automatically directed to the beneficiary’s latest Aadhaar-linked bank account.

Customers felt cheated when they realised the subsidy amounts didn’t reach their regular accounts and were instead redirected to the payment apps backed by telcos. Many of them have registered complaints with the UIDAI and telecom watchdog DoT. Following an uproar, authorities clarified that the telcos were exploiting lax clauses in the rules and have sought an explanation from cellular operators.

Telcos deny any wrongdoing. A leading telecom player told the media that it had taken “explicit consent” from customers before linking their cellphone accounts to its payments bank services. Clearly, the Government has to explain who is at fault. It is a fact that the fine print hides umpteen contractual agreements that consumers generally overlook. It is absurd to say that the subsidy amount will get auto-directed to the beneficiaries’ latest Aadhaar-seeded account. The choice should rest with the consumer. It is quite natural for the beneficiaries to hold more than one bank account for a myriad reasons. The Government has no right to micromanage this. The RBI, which awarded payments bank licences to telcos last year, should censure the payments bank operators and place stringent guidelines to prevent the players from resorting to such unethical practices.

Jinoy Jose P Deputy Editor

Published on December 10, 2017

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