WhatsApp’s payments service WhatsApp Pay has continued to face regulatory wrath in India for not complying with data localisation norms. And now, India’s central bank has informed the top court that the instant messaging app is storing various payment data outside India.
The Supreme Court had asked the Reserve Bank of India to submit a report on WhatsApp’s data localisation efforts and the absence of a local grievance officer within six weeks in August.
The RBI has now directed the National Payments Corporation of India’s (NPCI) CEO not to allow WhatsApp Pay to launch its full-scale operations in India.
WhatsApp Pay has been in a beta stage for about a year. It extended its UPI-powered payments service to around a million users. The RBI’s letter clarified that WhatsApp payments service still stores transaction ID, expiry of collect request, retrieval reference numbers and other crucial details outside India.
Recently, WhatsApp had said that the local compliance officer issue had already been settled and it’s completely compliant with data localisation norms. However, the RBI’s recommendations will certainly delay its plan to launch payments service in the country where it has amassed 400 million users.
In April last year, RBI had issued local data storage norms for payment firms. It asked these firms to provide consumer data including end-to-end transaction details or information collected and carried or processed as part of the message or payment instruction inside the country.
Three months ago, a petition filed by the Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) claimed that WhatsApp was bypassing the law to launch its payment service. To lobby with the government and its agencies, Will Cathcart, the global head of the US-headquartered company, visited India and met several government officials including IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The Unified Payments Interface (UPI) ecosystem has been growing rapidly in the country. In October, it had surpassed the 1 billion transactions mark. PhonePe and Google Pay are the leading players in UPI followed by Paytm and Amazon Pay. WhatsApp is expected to have assured success as and when it can launch its service.
And it appears that the launch isn’t going to happen anytime soon since it is still far from being compliant.