Mobile phone companies have urged the government to scrap the “unreasonably high” charges of Rs 41 for Aadhaar-based electronic-know your customer (e-KYC) authentication, saying it’s limiting the use of the facility for user verification.
“The only constraint in the adoption of this process presently is the unreasonably high authentication charges prescribed by UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India),” said SP Kochhar, director-general of Cellular Operators Association of India.
“The cost of each SIM activation increases by Rs 41, which is exorbitantly high as compared to the cost of other activation processes,” he said.
COAI represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
Earlier this week, the telecommunications department (DoT) allowed telecom operators to use Aadhaar number or virtual id for e-KYC services for issuing new mobile connections to consumers, including outstation customers, and for bulk activations.
The e-KYC process shall be implemented for all licensed service areas, including Jammu & Kashmir, Northeast, and Assam, DoT had said in a notification. Existing provisions for identifying customers will also continue.
“We would request the government that telecom service providers should not be a burdened with a cost for adopting a digitally safe and secure process that is in the interest of ensuring national security,” Kochhar said.
COAI pointed out that the postal department and banks are exempted from e-KYC authentication charges, while telecom carriers are burdened with these charges despite the industry being the largest user of Aadhaar database.
In the e-KYC process, the subscribers would be required to authenticate their connection through Aadhaar-based online process, and the company would store customer records for issuing mobile connections.
In September 2018, the Supreme Court had set aside a circular issued by the DoT for re-verification of existing mobile subscribers through the Aadhaar-based e-KYC process, following which the department had withdrawn the facility.
But the government in July 2019 passed the Aadhaar Amendment Bill to allow use of the facility by private entities like banks and telcos on a voluntary basis.
Kochhar said Aadhaar-based e-KYC process is a secure and robust process since both the subscriber and point of sale (PoS) agent are authenticated successfully on a real-time basis to ensure user traceability.
“The robustness of Aadhaar eliminates the possibilities of forgery and identity theft while, at the same time, ensuring complete transparency and traceability of both the telecom subscriber as well as the point of sale,” he said.
The department has mandated that for the identification purpose, neither core biometric information nor the Aadhaar number of the person shall be stored by the telco or its authorised PoS agent.