After almost two troublesome years, Whatsapp’s digital payments platform is finally compliant to the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) data localisation policies.
The instant messaging app has informed the Supreme Court that it has now localised five data elements identified by the RBI. It also specified that it has spent a “significant engineering time and effort” over the last seven months to comply with the guidelines.
WhatsApp has also alleged that an independent third-party auditor, certified by central government’s cybersecurity firm CERT-in, has confirmed that WhatsApp Payments satisfies the data localisation requirements under the RBI circular.
Though WhatsApp Payments has been planning its India launch since 2018, it has been stuck due to data localisation compliance causing delays. Even though India is WhatsApp’s largest market with more than 400 Mn users, it started off its digital payments platform’s complete roll-out in Brazil with 120 Mn users.
The only time WhatsApp came close to a roll-out in India was in February 2020 when unified payments interface (UPI) managing body National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) had reportedly approved the launch of WhatsApp Payments, but in a phased manner. Under this, WhatsApp Payments was allowed to offer its services to only 10 Mn Indian users initially, but could also aim for a complete roll-out once it had RBI’s approval.
However, NPCI had reportedly retracted the order and told WhatsApp to comply with RBI norms.
The latest development is the first time since 2018 that WhatsApp has declared it’s complete compliance to the data localisation policy, clearing one of the biggest hurdles in front of it. However, this is not the end of WhatsApp’s challenges in India.
The Delhi-based think tank Good Governance Chamber has filed a plea in the Supreme Court highlighting that WhatsApp has not created a dedicated app for digital payments but has incorporated the feature in its instant messaging app, which makes it a social platform bundled with payments feature. The petitioner sought a change in the working model to make it more in line with the scheme of UPI payments in India.
The Supreme Court, hearing the petition on May 12, had asked RBI and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to file their response on WhatsApp Payments on the petition.