Banks owe telecoms firms N17 bln over use of USSD service for mobile money ~NCC
Nigerian banks are owning telecommunications firms up to N17 billion debt over the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services by commercial lender’s customers for mobile banking transactions.
According to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Umar Danbatta
Danbattta, the debt accumulated following the regulator’s suspension of its determination on USSD pricing in 2019.
He, therefore, directed that banks should fulfill their obligations as corporate customers to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and pay them for the use of USSD.
The industry regulator said it has revised its Determination on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) pricing published on July 23, 2019.
The amendment was necessitated following a protracted dispute between telecoms firms and banks on the applicable charges for USSD services and the method of billing.
The NCC said that as a responsive and effective regulatory authority, it recognised that its policies are not static and may be modified from time to time as circumstances demanded.
Danbatta said approval for the review of the pricing for USSD services was given by the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Pantami after the commission made a presentation made by the Commission on the billing structure, determination of USSD pricing, current status and the way forward.
Pantami took the decision to suspend the commencement of end-user billing (where the consumers are charged directly from their airtime balance for use of USSD channels as opposed to corporate billing where the banks paid the MNOs for the use of USSD service) because he was besieged with a barrage of complaints at the attempted commencement of end-user billing by the telcos.
The minister was quoted to have say that; “USSD is a service to banks and not to the telecom consumers, and as such, banks should see themselves as corporate customers of telecom operators with a duty to pay for using the telecom network and infrastructure, including USSD channels extended to them for service delivery to their customers. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have no direct relationship to bank customers, and cannot, therefore, charge directly for usage of USSD channel.”
The USSD channel has evolved over time from a telco-exclusive channel used for only services such as balance inquiry and recharges to a channel for the deployment of a broad spectrum of services, including financial, insurance, agricultural, government services and more. The use of USSD channel has become a critical resource in the economy even more so in this era of the Covid-19 pandemic that has witnessed a rise in reliance on digital services.