MUMBAI: Telecom operators are likely to continue using mainly the new QR code-based digital method for authenticating potential subscribers even after the Rajya Sabha allowed the voluntary usage of Aadhaar for onboarding users.

Mobile phone companies say high cost of using the Aadhaar data base will force operators to transfer the expenses to the customer, which will act as a deterrent for using the 12-digit identification number.

“Every time one accesses the Aadhaar database, the charge is Rs 40-Rs 45 and getting a verification depends on connectivity which often fails leading to repeat charges. Even the point of sales person will have to use his Aadhaar to verify his details,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents all the three private players—Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio.

“However, if a customer still wants to use his Aadhaar card, then chances are a telco will transfer the costs to him or her,” Mathews said.

Mathews’ comments come on the back of the Rajya Sabha passing The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on Monday, thereby allowing voluntary linking of the 12-digit identification number as part of know your customer (KYC) guidelines to get a bank account or mobile connection.

COAI said the telcos are awaiting directions from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on the process and also details of what customer data can be retained by the retail stores attached to the telcos for audits. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the authority responsible for issuing Aadhaar numbers, also need to direct the operators on the costs, said COAI.

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UIDAI had issued a gazette notification on March 6, mandating private organisations using Aadhaar services to pay Rs 20.50 per customer verification. The cost doubles per verification because apart from the new customer, the credentials of the point-of-sale representative also need to be authenticated.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio did not respond to ET’s queries.

Operators had stopped Aadhaar-based digital verification for instant customer acquisition after the Supreme Court barred private entities from using the unique identity number last September.

The DoT then came up with an alternative method of digital verification, which allowed telcos to validate customer information through a combination of physical identity proofs and QR codes.

“The new digital verification system is working fine,” said Mathews.





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