UIDAI makes consumer nod mandatory for changing DBT bank accounts

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has directed all banks that they cannot add accounts of beneficiaries of government's direct benefit schemes without the explicit consent of the persons concerned.

The UIDAI directive comes in the wake of Bharti Airtel Payment Bank's unauthorised addition of DBT beneficiary accounts without the consent or knowledge of the beneficiaries.

In a Gazette notification, UIDAI has also asked banks 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.

The UIDAI directive follows complaints of government grants, particularly LPG subsidy, being credited into the last bank account authenticated using national biometric ID, Aadhaar.

In the case of Bharti Airtel, it allegedly used the Aadhaar ID of its mobile customers to open unsolicited payment bank accounts, verifying it through SIMs. Subsidies totalling over Rs190 crore had flown into the 'unsolicited' accounts opened by Airtel Payments Bank, even as the accounts got changed for beneficiaries who had multiple bank accounts (See: Airtel to return Rs190 cr gas subsidy in unauthorised accounts). 

Since Airtel had Aadhaar authentication of mobile number, the last account authenticated became the one meant for subsidy receiving.

The government has now made it mandatory for all bank accounts as well as SIMs to be verified by providing the 12- digit biometric identification number Aadhaar.

UIDAI in its 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.

A PTI report quoting UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey said, "a very secure process has been evolved to put an effective stop to switching of bank accounts without" informing and seeking consent of consumers.

Banks will now 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, as per the new UIDAI directive.

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.