Wednesday , December 1 2021

MTN, Banks CEOs reach compromise over USSD end user billing

MTN Nigeria communications PLC and the Body of Bank CEOs are ready to compromise over the unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) end user billing.

This is coming after multiple reactions trial the announcement of the telco to commence charging consumers N4 per 20 seconds over use of USSD code for any banking services.

Earlier, the banks and telcos have been trading blames in the past five days over USSD access charges.

While the bank executives on Monday denied having a knowledge of the direct USSD access charge to customers, telcos insisted that banks agreed to the charges.

Reaching a compromise, MTN maintained that the planned N4 for 20 seconds of USSD access had been abandoned following consultation with industry stakeholders, customer feedback and media reports.

MTN Nigeria says it is ready to engage with stakeholders in the industry to find a solution to the USSD access charge dispute.

MTN expressed the belief that separate charges by the banks and telecoms companies were an unnecessary burden on the consumers, especially the target group that the National Financial Inclusion Strategy was aimed at.

“We at MTN approach every day with one primary objective – finding ways to make our customers lives a little easier; which is why we will focus on what really matters, our customers.

“The SMS notification to our customers is reflective of this commitment and was sent after formal requests received from individual banks as well as the Body of Bank CEOs to implement end-user billing – a billing methodology where the customer is directly charged USSD access fees irrespective of the service charges that the bank may subsequently apply to their bank account”, MTN said.

The company secretary, Uto Ukpanah in a statement noted that the banks had up-till now been on a corporate billing plan  where a corporate client, the provider of the service that is accessed through the USSD channel (in this case the bank), pays the access fees at a wholesale price.

“We believe the costs associated with USSD banking services should be charged to the consumer only once – as with other USSD based services we provide, which we believe has been adequately provisioned for within existing Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) guidelines.

“It is in fact in line with the National Financial Inclusion Strategy of the Federal Government that we resisted the calls for end-user billing. We relented only after exhausting avenues of engagement with the banks in pursuit of a model that enabled a single charge.

“We believe separate charges by the banks and telecoms companies are an unnecessary burden on the consumer especially the target group that the National Financial Inclusion Strategy is aimed at.

“With this in mind, it is imperative for all parties to approach the table and engage constructively towards a solution, putting the consumer at the fore of all decisions.

“The banks have been and still are our esteemed customers and valued partners. We look forward to collaborating with them and other stakeholders and will be glad to implement the decisions approved by our Regulators,” MTM said.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in a public notice on Tuesday, ordered an immediate suspension of end-user billing for financial transactions though USSD channel by all telecom operators.

The Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Dr Henry Nkemadu, said consumers already paid service charge to banks for financial transactions carried out through USSD channels, and should include the cost of use of operators’ critical network resources.

Meanwhile, the Senator representing Kaduna Central and Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Services, Mallam Uba Sani, has faulted  the  USSD charges, saying it undermines federal government’s plan for the poor.

Applauding NCC’s decision to suspend USSD charges by telcos, the Body of Bank CEOs thank the Federal Government of Nigeria for championing this action.

According to them, working with the telecommunications industry will help achieve the objectives of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. We believe that with this new development, we will achieve 80% financial inclusion in 2020.

“When presented with two options by the telecommunications companies – corporate billing versus end-user billing – banks supported the standard practice for a relationship between a telecommunications company and their subscribers. We proposed the same method they charge for voice calls, SMS and data.

“We then asked to work with the telecommunications companies to bring the cost of their USSD service down for Nigerians.

“Since banks cannot reasonably be expected to charge for the service of another industry, over which they have no control of price, quality and security we are delighted that consumers will now be able to access their bank for free, using USSD.

“The Banks, supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria, have long advocated the designation of USSD services as a critical national asset to enable such free access to USSD. Indeed, in countries like India, free access to USSD channels have long been established to successfully drive financial inclusion.

“We believe that with this new development, we will achieve 80% financial inclusion in 2020”, the Body of Bank CEOs stated.

About Bukola Olanrewaju

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