BY CHIMA AKWAJA, Lagos
Nigerian mobile network operators have threatened to discontinue the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) short code service by some banks effective Monday March 15, 2021 over N42 billion debt owed them.
They said the banks (Financial Service Providers) have in the past eight months refused to pay USSD service charge as stated in the new USSD Pricing determination issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) last year.
The telecom operators under the aegis of Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), comprises of Network Operators, Infrastructure Companies and Value Added Services Providers.
This has led to accumulated debt of N42 billion in the last eight months by the banks. A statement jointly signed by Engr Gbenga Adebayo, chairman and Gbolahan Awonuga, head of operations of ALTON respectively stated that: “following the issuance of the USSD Pricing determination by the NCC which resulted in a price review of USSD service by the telcos, the banks decided that they would no longer pay for USSD service delivered to their customers and requested the telcos members to charge customers directly for use of the USSD channel.
“This billing methodology where the Financial Service Providers (FSPs) customer is directly charged USSD access fees by our members irrespective of the service charges that the bank may subsequently apply to the customers’ bank account is called “End-User Billing” which the banks specifically demanded that all our members implement.
“The banks, however, provided no assurances to our members that such service fees charged to customers’ bank accounts for access to bank services through the USSD channel would be discontinued post implementation of end-user billing by our members.
“We deeply regret that we have reached a point where the withdrawal of these services has become unavoidable, however, we remain committed to working closely with the relevant Ministries and regulators to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.
“To minimise the disruption to customers, and with the concurrence of the minister of communications and digital economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission, Mobile Network Operators will disconnect debtor Financial Service Providers (FSPs) from USSD services, until the huge debt is paid.
“Therefore, our members are initiating a phased process of withdrawal of USSD services, starting with the most significant debtors within the Financial Service Providers (FSPs) effective Monday March 15, 2021. While the withdrawal of USSD service is in place, we encourage our subscribers to kindly explore alternative channels with their Banks,” ALTON added.