Having run into multiple tussles with regulatory authorities over the last few months, Airtel Payments Bank announced that it has now received requisite approval from the Reserve Bank of India to enrol new customers. The company also announced that it has been permitted by the UIDAI to resume the enrolling of customers using Aadhaar based e-KYC. Below is a comprehensive timeline of Airtel Payments Bank and its troubles-

Timeline (reverse chronological order)

  • On May 24, Airtel appointed Anubrata Biswas as its new Managing Director and CEO for Airtel Payments Bank.
  • On April 2, UIDAI restored Airtel’s authorization to conduct Aadhaar based e-KYC verification only for its mobile subscribers.
  • On March 12, the RBI fined Airtel Payments Bank ₹5 crore, saying that KYC norms were violated. RBI did not pronounce the opened accounts invalid.
  • In February, RBI updates the operating guidelines for how payments banks must do KYC, in order to prevent a situation similar to Airtel’s case.
  • On January 8, it was reported that the company had terminated relationships with over a 1000 retailers and fined others for not following the proper process while signing up customers.
  • On December 22, partial eKYC was restored for Airtel by the UIDAI. UIDAI will only allow mobile SIM KYC through Aadhaar and will not allow the same for opening bank accounts.
  • Also in December 2017, following the entire fiasco Airtel Payments Bank CEO Shashi Arora resigned from his position.
  • In December 2017, Airtel deposited an interim penalty of Rs 2.5 crore with UIDAI. The company also assured that it will return the Rs 190 crore that had come into the ‘unsolicited’ payments bank accounts of 31 lakh mobile subscribers.
  • In November 2017, following up on several consumer complaints regarding non-credit of LPG subsidies the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas said that it learnt that the subsidies had been credited their Airtel Payments Bank accounts instead. A sum of over Rs 47 crore was said to have been transacted into the payments bank as part of LPG subsidies.
  • In late September 2017, it was reported that Airtel Payments Bank had opened bank accounts without the informed consent of its customers and receives a notice from UIDAI. Airtel denies all wrongdoing.

Competition in the Payments Bank space

Airtel will now compete with Jio Payments Bank, India Post Payments Bank Ltd, Paytm Payments Bank Ltd, Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank Ltd and Fino Payments Bank Ltd. The other applicants like Vodafone m-Pesa Ltd and National Securities Depository Ltd have licenses but are yet to start operations. It has also been reported last month that Infibeam is set to enter to begin operations as a Payments bank. As per RBI norms, a payments bank can accept deposits up to Rs 1 lakh, issue debit cards but are not allowed to offer loans.