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Mastercard, Visa may get option to store data copies in India

Mastercard, Visa may get option to store data copies in India

A decision by the RBI in April that all payments data should, within six months, be stored only in the country for "unfettered supervisory access" has led to furious lobbying by global firms that worry it would cost them millions of dollars.

Foreign payment firms could keep copies of customer data in India while retaining offshore storage operations, the government said, as a way to resolve a row with MasterCard, Visa and American Express over the localisation of such information.

A decision by the RBI in April that all payments data should, within six months, be stored only in the country for "unfettered supervisory access" has led to furious lobbying by global firms that worry it would cost them millions of dollars.

Economic Affairs Secretary SC Garg said that keeping data copies in the country had emerged as a possible solution during a meeting with officials from the Reserve Bank of India and executives from the payment firms.

"One of the options which emerged in that meeting was maybe mirror copies might be a potential solution," Garg told Reuters in an interview on Saturday. He said the Reserve Bank of India had to take a final decision on the matter but keeping mirror images of the data in India would mean all the customer information would be available to local authorities.

The RBI's directive comes as more people in India are switching to plastic, partly driven by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to replace high-value currency notes in November 2016, since when the government has aggressively discouraged cash transactions.

In March, Indians clocked up transactions worth $52 billion using their 900 million credit and debit cards, nearly double the amount recorded in November 2016. But rising fraud is a concern too.

The RBI in April said the payment ecosystem in India had expanded considerably, making it necessary to ensure the safety and security of data.

Garg said the government was trying to find a consensus over data localisation at a time of heightened scrutiny of how companies globally handle their customers' data.

"What we do is we listen to different stakeholders, what they say, what their stance is and where can we can find a landing zone ... That is the reason why it was suggested to have mirror copies," he said.

The Finance Ministry has proposed relaxing the RBI's directive following weeks of intense lobbying by US companies and trade bodies.

During the June meeting, representatives from US lobby group US-India Business Council (USIBC) said that storing the data exclusively in India would be a security risk, as in the event of a natural disaster no-one would have access to it if it was all stored in one place.