Paytm Vs Airtel Money: This Is What I Discovered After The OTP Based KYC For Mobile Wallets Expires

Paytm Vs Airtel Money: This Is What I Discovered After The OTP Based KYC For Mobile Wallets Expires

Digital payments and mobile wallets are serious business these days, as a crucial part of the government push towards cashless transactions. The numbers and projections tell their own tale, and the coronavirus pandemic has quickened the pace of digital payment adoption. As a user, I have plenty of choices. Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, Airtel Money, Mobikwik, Amazon Pay, WhatsApp Pay, HDFC PayZapp and more. Competition between these mobile payment platforms has largely meant good service, an ever-widening scope of services that are available within each app and quite often, good offers and cashbacks that can be availed depending on what you are paying for. Needless to say, it has become incredibly convenient to pay for utility bills, mobile and broadband bills, prepaid recharge, buying insurance or paying premiums, buying and recharging the FASTag for your car, pay for Zomato and Swiggy food deliveries, making quick cashless payments in stores, transfer money to contacts and more. Credit cards, UPI and multiple modes of payments are available on these apps.

It was pretty surprising when on Thursday, November 26, I noticed something somewhat interesting with my Airtel Wallet. A bolt from the blue, mind you. On the face of it, nothing had changed. Open the Airtel Thanks app on the phone, tap on the Bank tab and you see your wallet balance, auto-scrolling banners with offers and schemes for bill payments and all the available payments umbrellas listed. I had to pay an Airtel mobile postpaid bill in the family and proceeded to make the payment as usual. However, when it came to actually paying the bill after selecting a payment option, which in this case is the balance in the Airtel Money wallet account, it tells me “transaction could not be processed due to debit freeze on account or account closed”. No others modes of payment listed either, including UPI or Amazon Pay, for instance. Interesting. As I had mentioned earlier, the Airtel Wallet homepage had given absolutely no such indication at all.

I checked again. The View Profile option in the wallet tells me my account is “Full KYC”, and still no hints that something was amiss with the mobile wallet. There is also the “upgrade KYC” option proudly plastered at multiple places in the Airtel Wallet services listings. I tapped on that, and it tells me in a very cheerful tone that “You are all set!” and that “your wallet is already updated with the new benefits”. This is how it has always been since I got the physical KYC done for the Airtel Money wallet done a year ago, before buying the FASTag for the car. My linked FASTag says “Inactive – Linked account freeze/dormant”. Great. Not that I had to, but what if I had to travel interstate on national highways around that time? A little more thought could have helped. At least allow the FASTag to be linked to a UPI source? Or let the FASTag wallet remain separate?

In a written communication with Airtel, the response initially was pretty vague. “We have checked as there is a temporary hold on the ability to do transactions on your Full KYC wallet. We want to secure your account with additional identification & verification of documents,” they said. But there is more. It is all a tad confusing because buried deep inside the FAQs section on their website, Airtel says, “Currently we do not have the provision of changing to FULL KYC category. We will soon have an update for the same with a detailed process.”

The guidelines by the Reserve Bank of India are very clear, as per the notification RBI/DBR/2015-16/18 Master Direction DBR.AML.BC.No.81/14.01.001/2015-16 for Know Your Customer (KYC), 2016. The guidelines state that in case of a deposit account being opened using an OTP (in this case the Aadhaar OTP), in the non-face-to-face mode, these accounts shall not be allowed for more than one year within which identification as per Section 16 is to be carried out. The guidelines also state that if the Customer Due Diligence (CDD) is not completed within this one year or at the end of one year, these accounts shall be closed immediately, and no further debits shall be allowed…Read more>>



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