WhatsApp looks to authorities to approve payments feature in India

4 Dec 2018

A WhatsApp chat window on a mobile device. Image: diego_cervo/Depositphotos

Messaging giant WhatsApp’s roll-out of its payment services in India has been in a state of flux for some time.

In February 2018, WhatsApp Payment services were rolled out to a selection of users in India. Since then, the feature has been in beta testing and has gathered close to 1bn users. According to India Today, since the launch earlier this year, the countrywide roll-out of WhatsApp Payment has been difficult to pin down.

CEO of WhatsApp, Chris Daniels, placed a formal request with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 5 November, seeking permission to bring the payments feature to the entirety of India. Daniels wrote: “I write to request your formal approval to immediately expand WhatsApp’s BHIM UPI (Unified Payments Interface)-compliant payments product to all users in India, giving us the opportunity to offer a useful and secure service that can improve the lives of Indian people through digital empowerment and financial inclusion.”

The firm also assured the RBI that payments data is stored in India. This followed a directive from the body in April of this year outlining new payments storage requirements.

The request from Daniels follows the development of competing digital payments services in India from the likes of Google. Telegraph India reported that it has been close to two years since WhatsApp first entered discussions with the Indian government about its payment services plan. A spokesperson told the paper that the feedback around WhatsApp payments in India has been positive, adding that “people enjoy the convenience of sending money as simply and securely as sending messages”.

Online misinformation plaguing the platform

As well as delays in the roll-out of WhatsApp Payment, the company has faced a barrage of criticism for the manner in which it handled the spread of ‘fake news’ stories via its platform in India. Just yesterday (3 December), the platform launched three 60-second television advertisements in the country to spread awareness about the issue among its users in the country.

WhatsApp had been called out for false video messages spread via its platform leading to several lynchings in the country. The Facebook-owned company has since appointed a grievance officer and a country head for India to tackle to issue.

A WhatsApp chat window on a mobile device. Image: diego_cervo/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects