From Benjamin Babine, Abuja
Following disagreements between Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and commercial banks over Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have both agreed on new charges for customers.
In a statement jointly signed by CBN and NCC, it was disclosed that customers will pay a flat fee of N6.98 per USSD transaction. This replaces the per session billing structure which charged customers per session whether on not the particular transaction is successful.
The new charges was part of the agreement reached when banks and telecommunication operators met on Monday to discuss the USSD pricing challenge as well as N42bn debt owed to mobile operators by banks.
The Federal Government had last week asked telecommunication operators to put on hold, their impending suspension of USSD services over a N42bn debt owed by banks. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, convened the meeting with financial institutions and mobile network operators.
The statement read in part: “We are pleased to announce that after comprehensive deliberations on the key issues, a resolution framework acceptable to all parties was agreed thus: Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs and all CBN – licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction.
“This replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion. This approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.
“To promote transparency in its administration, the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customers’ bank accounts. Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel.”
Regarding the N42b debt owed to the banks, they said: “A settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for USSD services, previously rendered by the MNOs, is being worked out by all parties in a bid to ensure that the matter is fully resolved.”
“With the above resolutions, the impending suspension of DMBs from the USSD channel is hereby vacated. Therefore, DMBs shall no longer be disconnected from the USSD channel.
“The general public is reminded that the USSD channel is optional, as several alternative channels such as mobile apps, internet banking and ATMs may be used for financial transactions,” it concluded.