Bank Customers to Pay N6.98 for Single USSD Transaction

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By Dipo Olowookere

Financial institutions and network providers operating in Nigeria seem to have found a solution to the lingering crisis between them concerning the billing system for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code banking transactions.

Over the weekend, it was reported that telecommunications companies were planning to withdraw their USSD services to banks from this week because of debts worth over N40 billion.

The federal government waded into the matter and on Tuesday, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) issued a joint statement to announce a decision reached at a meeting of stakeholders on Monday.

According to the statement signed by Mr Osita Nwanisobi, the acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN and Mr Ikechukwu Adinde, the Director of Public Affairs at the NCC, it was agreed that from “Tuesday, March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and all CBN licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction.”

It was explained that the new arrangement “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.”

The statement further said, “To promote transparency in its administration, the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) directly from customers’ bank accounts. Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for 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,” it added.

It was also disclosed that, “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 above resolutions, the impending suspension of DMBs from 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 Nigeria,” the CBN and the NCC said.

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