The Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have slashed the unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) charges being paid by bank customers from N50 to N6.98k. The new charge which commenced yesterday would now be collected by banks.
Before now, customers using USSD are charged between N20 and N50 per transaction, while discrepancies on the mode of collecting the charges from customers had led to an accumulated debt of over N42billion.
At the end of a sit-down between representatives of the telecommunications sector and the banking industry, it was agreed that charges be fixed at N6.98 for the customer to be deducted from the customer’s bank account.
A statement jointly issued by the director of corporate communications of the CBN, Osita Nwanisobi and the director, public affairs of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, noted that the meeting chaired by the Minister for Communications And Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, was convened to resolve the lingering dispute and ensure uninterrupted services to customers on the USSD channel.
Represented at the meeting were the various mobile network operators (MNO), including the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), deposit money banks represented by the chairman, Body of Bank CEOs and the sector regulators, that is, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that 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, they said, is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.
It was also agreed that the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customers’ bank accounts and banks cannot impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel.
The statement noted: “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. “MNOs and DMBs shall discuss and agree on the operational modalities for the implementation of the new USSD pricing framework, including sharing of Application Programme Interface (API) to enable seamless, direct and transparent customer billing
“DMBs and MNOs are committed to engaging further on strategies to lower cost and enhance access to financial services. With the 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. “The CBN and NCC shall continue to engage relevant operators and all stakeholders to promote cheaper, seamless access to mobile and financial services for all Nigerians.”