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‘NPCI gave ICICI Bank go ahead for WhatsApp Pay in June’, RBI informs SC

WhatsApp Pay

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) had given ICICI Bank, WhatsApp Pay’s payment service provider (PSP), the approval to go live on June 5, 2020 since the platform had complied with the data localisation requirements that had held up its full scale launch for more than two years, the Reserve Bank of India’s reply affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on July 31 revealed. A WhatsApp spokesperson did not specify when WhatsApp Pay will be launched, only that it will be available to all users in India “soon”. We have reached out to ICICI Bank, the RBI and NPCI for details about when the service can go live.

In the affidavit, RBI explicitly denies granting WhatsApp the permission to launch full scale UPI operations, probably because it did not need to; NPCI is the authority that grants approvals to third-party based payment apps (TPAP) such as WhatsApp Pay to use UPI, not RBI. RBI has an advisory role.

RBI refuted all charges made by the petitioner, not WhatsApp

The RBI affidavit was filed in response to an interim application filed by the Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) on February 10, seeking orders to be issued in the case. CASC’s application had cited this February 2020 Times of India report that alleged that WhatsApp Pay would roll out its payments services in a phased manner, and that NPCI and RBI had considered allowing the platform to increase its number of users from one million to 10 million. RBI’s affidavit categorically denied that any such discussion took place between RBI and NPCI.

To the petitioner’s charge that WhatsApp Pay’s beta testing of the platform, limited to one million users and introduced in February 2018, was in violation of its April 2018 circular on “Storage of Payment System Data”, RBI just said that it was done before the RBI circular, and since then, WhatsApp has complied with the data storage requirements, partly due to pressure from the RBI itself as well.

RBI refuted CASC’s charges that the June 2019 FAQs toned down its April 2018 circular on storage of payment data. “The FAQs in no manner dilute the circular and they are merely clarificatory in nature”, the affidavit stated.

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Read: RBI’s Reply Affidavit (July 31, 2020) | CASC’s Interim Application (February 10, 2020)

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