It appears MTN Nigeria was acting entirely on its own when it told its subscribers over the weekend via SMS that they will be charged NGN 4.00 for every 20 seconds spent on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) starting October 21.
In the SMS it sent to its millions of subscribers, MTN Nigeria said the new USSD charge was as requested by the banks. But in what looks like a rather odd twist, the banks have basically come out to say that they had nothing to do with it and MTN was, in fact, acting on its own.
As reported by Nairametrics, a just-released statement issued by the entire committee of Bank CEOs reads thus:
“Our attention has been drawn to Short Messages System (SMS) sent last Saturday and Sunday by MTN to customers of banks in Nigeria in respect of the above. The message states that the banks requested MTN to start charging customers for USSD transactions directly. It also asks customers to contact their banks for more information but the decision on what to charge on USSD is entirely the telco’s.”
From the other details of the statement, it can be gathered that the banks have distanced themselves from the telco’s proposed USSD charge, stating that they did not ask MTN to start charging customers for USSD-enabled banking services as the telco had suggested.
The statement further revealed that the decision to charge, as well as the amount to be charged for accessing USSD, were entirely of the telco’s. The statement even likened the proposed USSD charges from MTN to charges of calls, SMS, and data — entirely of the telco’s making.
Other parts of the statement from the banks read thus: “MTN is the only Telco that is yet to implement end-user billing which is the standard practice for customer-initiated transactions.”
“This is despite the fact that the banks, working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), have engaged the Telcos over a period of more than one year to try and bring down the cost of USSD to aid financial inclusion.”
“The banks are determined to pursue the National Financial Inclusion Strategy of the Federal Government of Nigeria and will continue to advocate that Telcos identify wholeheartedly with this laudable initiative and implement transparent and low pricing model in the use of USSD access codes.”
“We wish to reiterate that financial transaction charges are regulated by the CBN as stipulated in the Bankers Tariff and that the charges for financial transactions carried out with banks remain unchanged.”
Meanwhile, in the latter of hours of Sunday, October 20, Nigeria’s Communications Minister, Isa Pantami, moved swiftly to stop the USSD charges.
In a signed statement, the Minister asked the telcos regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to ensure that the telco suspends the charges until the Ministry has been fully briefed. From all indications, the Minister was never apprised of the development.
Featured Image Courtesy: ConnectNigeria