To avoid a repeat of Bharti Airtel-type fiasco, the Aadhaar-issuing authority UIDAI today directed banks to seek an explicit consent of the beneficiary before changing the account to which the government subsidy is being remitted. Also, the banks have been asked to intimate the beneficiary about the change within 24-hours through SMS and e-mail as well as provide an option to the person to reverse the change, according to a Gazette notification issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The notification follows complaints of government grants, particularly LPG subsidy, being credited into the last account authenticated using national biometric ID, Aadhaar. The situation was worse in case of Bharti Airtel, which allegedly opened unsolicited payment bank accounts of its unsuspecting mobile customers who had used Aadhaar to verify their SIMs. The government has made it mandatory for all bank accounts as well as SIMs to be verified by providing the 12- digit biometric identification number Aadhaar. While subsidies totaling over Rs 190 crore had flown into the ‘unsolicited’ accounts opened by Airtel Payments Bank, the accounts had also got changed for beneficiaries who had multiple bank accounts as the last account authenticated became the one meant for subsidy receiving. The UIDAI, in the notification, said the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) shall allow override requests or change of subsidy-receiving account, only if it is accompanied by the name of the beneficiary’s current bank and a confirmation that explicit consent has been obtained for the switchover. Till this provision is implemented, “NPCI shall disable the override feature” in the Aadhaar-based bank account mapping process, the notification said. When contacted, UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey told PTI that “a very secure process has been evolved to put an effective stop to switching of bank accounts without” informing and seeking consent of consumers.
As per the new process, banks will send request for mapping of a new account or overriding an existing bank account to NPCI only after taking explicit and informed consent of their customers, it said. Further, the banks would also have to inform each account holder through SMS and email about the overriding request within 24 hours, providing name of the current bank on the mapper and the last four digits of the account number of the new bank along with the bank name. In case, the consumer does not wish to link the DBT to the new account, the bank will have to provide the user with a method to reverse the mapping. In absence of an SMS or email (for those consumer who do not have e-mail or mobile connection), the physical signature on the paper consent form will have to taken by the bank prior to sending the request on NPCI mapper. All these records will have to be retained by the banks for seven years.
“Banks and NPCI shall make available the aforesaid records at the time of the audit as per the provisions of Aadhaar Authentication Regulations 2016,” the notification added. The notification detailed the reason for the revamp of the process and went on to list the Bharti Airtel issue as well as general instances of last bank account authenticated becoming the subsidy receiving account. “As a result, the subsidy from the government under the various schemes are getting credited in the new/latest bank account on Aadhaar Payment Bridge (APB) mapper without the knowledge and informed consent of the beneficiary,” the notification said.