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Telcos begin rolling out alternate digital KYC process for new connections

Reliance Jio is not included among these, as sources indicated that the operator has a plan on alternate digital KYC and will roll it out soon

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Large telecom operators including Vodafone Idea Ltd and Bharti Airtel have begun rolling out an ‘alternate digital KYC process’ for new connections, which will replace Aadhaar-based electronic verification process. Reliance Jio is not included among these, as sources indicated that the operator has a plan on alternate digital KYC and will roll it out soon. However, it is not immediately clear if telecom service providers are, for now, continuing Aadhaar eKYC for verification of new subscribers.

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court verdict on Aadhaar, the Telecom Department had issued detailed instructions to telcos on stopping the use of Aadhaar-based electronic-know your customer (e-KYC) and had asked them to report compliance by November 5. But operators, subsequently, approached the government requesting that they be allowed to continue with Aadhaar-based eKYC process till November 20, while they implement the new digital process. Sources in Bharti Airtel told PTI that the alternate digital KYC process has begun in select circles including Delhi, UP (East) and UP (West) and will be extended to other locations in the coming days.

The official who did not wish to be named said the new digital KYC process entails scanning of the proof of address and identity, embedding live customer photo and online customer acquisition form, and that the entire process will be digital. The official further pointed out that the company will be phasing out the eKYC process, as the digital KYC system is rolled out to new locations, and stablises. An email sent to Bharti Airtel in this regard remained unanswered.

Vodafone Idea, in a statement, confirmed its new digital KYC process is live and is being rolled out nationally, and added that the DoT instructions allow for provisional roll out of digital KYC. Reliance Jio did not respond to an e-mail query but sources indicated that for alternate digital KYC process, the company has a plan in place and will start rolling it out soon. Aadhaar issuing-body Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) could not be reached for comments.

However, a person familiar with provisions of Aadhaar Act was of the view that it may be difficult for the UIDAI to immediately pull the plug on telecom-related authentications as Section 32(3) of the Act prohibits it from collecting or maintaining any information about the specific purpose of an authentication. The Supreme Court had in a landmark verdict in September restricted the use of Aadhaar by private entities in the absence of a legal provision. On October 26, the telecom department asked operators to stop using Aadhaar for electronic verification of existing mobile phone customers as well as for issuing new connections to comply with the SC order.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) in its October 26 circular had also taken note of the fact that the industry mooted an alternate process for KYC (know your customer) which entailed customer acquisition forms to be embedded with live photo of the subscriber and scanned images of proof of identity and proof of address – thereby digitising the end-to-end process for on-boarding of new mobile subscribers and making it paperless. Accordingly, all telecom service providers were asked by the Department of Telecom (DoT) to ensure readiness of their systems and offer the proof of concept of the proposed digital process by November 5 for approval.

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