NEW DELHI: Telecom operators may opt to continue verifying new customers using the QR code system instead of Aadhaar numbers, which was allowed recently on a voluntary basis, because cross-checking information based on the 12-digit identity code – while handy – is turning out to be more expensive.
“They prefer to use the existing method of electronic verification, which includes using an Aadhaar-generated QR code by the customer as one of the documents that may be used for verification,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, which represents the three private telecom operators.
The current procedure of customer verification requires telcos to physically validate their details. ID proofs that have QR codes, including Aadhaar cards, can be scanned to avoid filling up forms manually.
Hopes of a quicker process rose after the government said telcos would be allowed to verify credentials using Aadhaar if customers voluntarily offered them. However, the agency administering the unique identity number decided earlier this month to levy a charge for each Aadhaar-based authentication.
The Unique Identification Authority of India issued a gazette notification on March 6 mandating private organisations using Aadhaar services to pay Rs 20.50 per customer verification. COAI discussed the matter last week and concluded that the charges would be Rs 41 for every new customer, which is an expensive proposition, Mathews said.
The cost doubles per verification because apart from the new customer, the credentials of the point-of-sale representative also need to be authenticated.
“There are times when accessing the database may get delayed because of network issues and although Aadhaar-based authentication may still be faster, telcos have adjusted to the e-KYC system as a secure alternative,” said Mathews.
UIDAI’s notification followed a recent ordinance allowing voluntary Aadhaar-based digital verification. Telcos had stopped Aadhaar-based digital verification for instant customer acquisition after the Supreme Court barred private entities from using the unique identity number in September.
The Department of Telecommunications 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.
“There is no point of shifting again and we have adjusted to the QR code-based verification process. Why should we bear the additional cost?” asked a senior executive in one of the telcos who did not want to be identified.
Vodafone Idea, Bharti AirtelNSE 2.03 % and Reliance Jio Infocomm did not respond to ET’s queries on the matter. The telecom sector, under debt of more than Rs 7 lakh crore, is trying every way to reduce costs.