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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

CBN, NCC, issue new USSD pricing - ITREALMS

Two Federal Government (FG) regulators, the Central of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have jointly brokered an acceptable pricing for the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) at N6.98, reports ITREALMS.

This was to avert the suspension of USSD by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country.

ITREALMS recalls that MNOs and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have had protracted disagreements over appropriate USSD pricing model for financial transactions, which resulted in the accumulation of outstanding fees to the tune of N42 billion, and led to potential service withdrawal by the MNOs.

Confirming to ITREALMS, the Acting Director, Corporate Communications at Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi and Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. lkechukwu Adinde, informed both regulators alongside other stakeholders, to now charge a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction.

ITREALMS also recollected that USSD is a critical channel for delivering financial services, particularly for the underserved and/or financially excluded. To resolve the lingering dispute and ensure uninterrupted services to customers on this channel, the Honorable 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 Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), DMBs (represented by the Chairman, Body of Bank CEOs) and the sector regulators —CBN) and NCC.

“We are pleased to announce that after comprehensive deliberations on the key issues, a resolution framework acceptable to all parties was agreed,” they said.

A 6-point resolution endorsed by Nwanisobi and Adinde include:

“1. Effective March 16, 2021, 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.

“2. To promote transparency in its administration, 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 use of the USSD channel.

“3. 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.

“4. 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

“5. DMBs and MNOs are committed to engaging further on strategies to lower cost and enhance access to financial services

“6. With the above resolutions, the impending suspension of DMBs from the USSD channel is hereby vacated. Therefore, DMBs shall no longer be disconnected from the USSD channel.”

They also reminded the public that the USSD channel is optional, as several alternative channels such as mobile apps, internet banking and ATMs may be used for financial transactions.

Just as both regulators pledged continuous engagement with relevant operators and all stakeholders towards promotion of cheaper, seamless access to mobile and financial services for all Nigerians.

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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