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CBN in Partnership with NCC Announces New USSD Transaction Charges

The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Communications Commission have imposed a new charge for customers using the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services for mobile banking services in the country, in a bid to end a row between banks and telecom operators.

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 CEQs) and the sector regulators – Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The outcome of the meeting was that customers will pay a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction every time they use USSD services with effect from Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

The short code service has been popular in a country with a relatively low penetration of financial services. Many nongovernmental organisations have sought to encourage financial inclusion by encouraging mostly the nation’s poorest population to make use of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).

The joint statement stated that the new charges was part of the resolution reached at the meeting adding that a settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for USSD services, previously rendered by mobile network operators was being worked out by all parties in a bid to ensure that the matter is fully resolved.

The statement which was titled, ‘Joint Statement By Central Bank Of Nigeria and Nigerian Communications Commission On Pricing Of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) Services’, partly read, “We are pleased to announce that after comprehensive deliberations on the key issues, a resolution framework acceptable to all parties was agreed thus:

“Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs (Deposit Money Banks) 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.

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

“A settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for the USSD services, previously rendered by the MNOs is being worked at by all parties in a bid to ensure that the matter is fully resolved.’’

 “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.’’

“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.’’

The statement reiterated that 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 said that they shall continue to engage relevant operators and all stakeholders to promote cheaper, seamless access to mobile and financial services for all Nigerians,” the statement concluded.

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