The Central Bank of Nigeria and other stakeholders have resolved the disagreement between Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) over service charge for the use of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) offered banks by telecoms operators (Telcos).
With the resolution of the dispute, bank customers, effective from Tuesday, would now pay a flat rate of N6.98k per transaction, for USSD services.
The agreement was reached at a meeting on Monday, following months of protracted disagreement concerning the appropriate USSD pricing model for financial transactions carried out by bank customers using the USSD code.
Before Monday’s intervention, telecom operators had threatened to suspend USSD services to banks over the unpaid charges that had accumulated to N42 billion.
The USSD is a critical channel for delivering financial services, particularly for the underserved and the financially excluded, offered by telecoms operators to banks.
In order to resolve the lingering issues and ensure uninterrupted services to bank customers on the channel, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, on Monday, chaired a meeting of key stakeholders to resolve the issue.
The various MNOs, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators (ALTON), Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the banks and the sector regulators, the CBN and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), attended the meeting.
In a communiqué released yesterday and jointly signed by the Acting Director, Corporate Communications at CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, and the Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, the parties resolved that with effect from yesterday, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs and all CBN-licensed institutions will be charged at a flat rate of N6.98k per transaction.
This replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers.
It said: “To promote transparency, 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 the use of the USSD channel. 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 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.”
It was then resolved that the impending suspension of DMBs from the USSD channel be vacated.