The lingering dispute between Deposit Money Banks and Mobile Network Operators over N42bn debt has been resolved following the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Communications Commission on Tuesday.
Financial Street had earlier reported that the CBN had announced a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction to be paid by bank customers for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data services.
This development followed the CBN’s request last week to telecommunication companies to put on hold their impending suspension of USSD services over the N42bn debt owed by banks.
Prior to the new charges, customers using USSD are charged between N20 and N50 per transaction, and discrepancies on the mode of collecting the charges from customers had led to an accumulated debt of over N42bn.
At the end of a meeting between representatives of the telecommunications sector and the banking industry, it was agreed that charges be fixed at N6.98 per transaction, effective Mar. 16, 2021, and would now be deducted from the customers’ bank accounts.
According to a statement jointly issued by the Director of Corporate Communications, CBN, Osita Nwanisobi and the Director Public Affairs of the NCC, Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, the meeting, chaired by the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, was called to resolve the lingering dispute and ensure uninterrupted services to customers on the USSD channel.
Represented at the meeting were the various MNOs, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, DMBs, represented by the Chairman Body of Bank CEOs and the sector regulators, namely the CBN and the NCC.
The statement said, “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 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.”
According to the statement, 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.
It said, “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 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.”
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