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April 25, 2022

India’s central bank stiffens scrutiny of firms seeking payment aggregator licence

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is strengthening its scrutiny of online payment gateways eyeing a payment aggregator licence, reported ET citing multiple sources with knowledge of the development said.

These online payment gateways have come under the regulatory lens in connection with their past tie-ups with cryptocurrency exchanges and gaming apps as well as KYC related issues.

According to a source, RBI is “clearly not okay with payment aggregators having dealings with cryptocurrency companies, and or with gaming apps” as they were seen as a conduit to launder money.

Under the payment aggregator framework introduced in March 2020, only firms that are approved by the central bank can involve in acquiring and payment services for merchants in India.

Furthermore, such firms will operate under the direct purview of the banking regulator.

At present, merchants are given a period of around three months to stop using a gateway’s service if its application is rejected by RBI.

The central bank is considering an extension of this time frame to six months, according to the sources.

RBI is also concerned about the payout business run by some of the gateways.

Additionally, the central bank’s due diligence process also includes evaluation of aspects including the part of a firm’s revenue coming from unregulated entities like crypto exchanges and online betting.

It will also look into aggregators’ compliance with its tokenisation and anti-money laundering norms.

Last year, a number of Indian payment gateways were investigated by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) for letting users transfer money to Chinese betting apps.

In the last few months, the apex bank has been in discussions with payment gateways and other fintech players seeking a payment aggregator licence.

Big names like Cred, Razorpay, and PhonePe are said to be among the firms that applied for a licence.

The RBI is yet to grant a licence to any of the firms while it rejected several applications, according to the sources.

This includes an application by MobiKwik to turn Zaakpay into a payment aggregator. The bank turned down the application citing MobiKwik’s crypto partnerships and failure to meet the laid-down net-worth criterion.

Payment aggregator Cashfree was also said to be questioned by RBI recently over its KYC standards and business modules.

A spokesperson for Cashfree told ET: “We would like to state that Cashfree Payments has not come under any scanner by RBI. Our interaction with the regulator has been positive. Cashfree Payments has zero exposure or relations with crypto exchanges.”

Last year, payment firm Paytm set up a new subsidiary called Paytm Payments Services to run its payment aggregator business to comply with RBI’s payment aggregator rules.