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Updated: Customers to pay N6.98k per transaction for USSD services

Banks risk N6.24trn over USSD impasse

Effective March 16, 2021, Nigerian bank customers will pay N6.98k per transaction for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said after a joint meeting on Tuesday.

The new fee replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion.

USSD is a critical channel for delivering financial services, particularly for the underserved and/or financially excluded.

A joint statement signed by Osita Nwanisobi, acting director, corporate communications department of the CBN, and Ikechukwu Adinde, director, public affairs, NCC, said this approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have had protracted disagreements concerning the appropriate USSD pricing model for financial transactions.

This resulted in the accumulation of outstanding fees for USSD services rendered, leading to potential service withdrawal by the MNOs.

The new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customers’ bank accounts. This is to promote transparency in administration.

Banks are not to impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel, the statement said.

A statement 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.

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The MNOs and the deposit money banks are to 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.

“Banks and MNOs are committed to engaging further on strategies to lower cost and enhance access to financial services. With the above resolutions, the impending suspension of banks from the USSD channel is hereby vacated. Therefore, banks shall no longer be disconnected from the USSD channel,” the statement said.

To resolve the lingering dispute and ensure uninterrupted services to customers on this channel, the minister for communications and digital economy on March 15, 2021 chaired a meeting of key stakeholders to discuss an amicable resolution in the interest of the general public.

Represented at the meeting were the various MNOs, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), DMBs, represented by the chairman, Body of Bank CEOs, and the sector regulators – CBN and NCC.

Part of the statement said “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 operators and all stakeholders to promote cheaper, seamless access to mobile and financial services for all Nigerians,” it said.