Recall that on tuesday, The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) announced publicly that bank customers using the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) will now henceforth pay a flat fee of N6.98 for every successful transaction.
In a statement released on Tuesday and jointly signed by the apex bank’s Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Osita Nwanisobi; and Director, Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, Ikechukwu Adinde said the new charges was part of the agreement reached when banks and telecommunication operators met on Monday to discuss the N42bn debt owed mobile operators by banks.
Part of the statement reads; “Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs (Deposit Money Banks Business) 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.
The new development however generated outrage from many Nigerians on social media, who lamented about the numerous charges they already have to pay to financial institutions.
Bank customers use the USSD service, run by mobile network operators,to do transactions (deposit and transfer money) using short codes.
DAILY GIST understands that Network operators and financial institutions have been at loggerheads for years over the best pricing model for the service and sharing formula of the proceeds.
Under the old pricing system which was cancelled on Tuesday by the CBN, bank customers were charged per session, with a session pegged at 20 seconds.
Financial institutions have been known to charge customers service fees, ranging from N10 to N50, for using USSD service, but network operators have complained about being starved their own cut of the pie.
Some operators have in the past directly charged their customers for USSD transactions by deducting from their available airtime even though it wasn’t allowed.
The NCC in 2019 briefly allowed this end-user billing model that allowed the operators to directly charge customers a minimum of ₦1.63 and a maximum of ₦4.86 per session (while banks also continued with their service charges), but this was soon cancelled in 2020 following outrage from Nigerians.
Under the new pricing system, bank charges will be collected directly from customers’ bank accounts on behalf of operators, and banks are not allowed to charge customers additional fees for using the USSD channel.
Tuesday’s announcement was the result of the intervention of the NCC following last week’s threat by mobile network operators to suspend the USSD service, alleging that financial institutions owe them over N42 billion in unpaid remittance of USSD charges.
The joint statement by the CBN and NCC said both parties will work out a settlement plan for outstanding payments due to network operators for USSD services, and put an end to their protracted conflict.
The two regulators also reminded Nigerians that might have a problem with the new pricing model that the USSD channel is optional and that they can use other channels such as mobile apps, internet banking, and ATMs for their financial transactions.