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Telcos threaten to withdraw service link to USSD over N17bn debt

*Move also threatens NCC, CBN 2018 MoU on payment systems

 

It is a service that we have provided and the banks have charged the user account so it’s only fair for them to pay us what they owe us. They have to pay. It’s monies that they have received and they must pay the providers of the USSD link which are the operators. 

 

By Temmy Don

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Telecommunications operators in the country have agreed to comply with the directive by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami that they cease, forthwith, from deducting charges from subscribers on bank transfers since banks also make same deductions on user’s bank accounts.

However, they insisted that the banks must be made to not only settle the outstanding N17 billion debt but agree to consistently pay as and when due, otherwise, they would have no other choice than to withdraw the support link to the services.

Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta at ATCON’s virtual forum on “Meeting the Interests of Government, Consumers and Telecoms Companies in the Era of Covid-19 and Post Covid-19 Pandemic for Digital Economy Development”, disclosed that commercial banks in the country owe telecommunications companies over N17 billion on deductions made from subscribers’ bank transfers since last year

He however, said the commission is putting heads together with Pantami and other stakeholders in the banking sector to ensure a quick settlement of the debt.

Speaking on behalf of the telcos, Chairman of Association of Licensed Telecom operators in Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, while the telcos see the reviewed Determination on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) Pricing as a welcome development, it would also be pertinent for all stakeholders to impress it on the banks, the responsibility to pay the debt and agree to pay as when due.

He said: “We had expressed our concern about the end -user-billing; which is a situation where Operators will deduct the cost of USSD service from subscribers data and the banks will still deduct a charge from the user bank account for the same service; we believe the directive will now provide an opportunity to remedy the situation and bring a closure to this issue.

NCC EVC Prof Umar Danbatta and CBN Gov, Mr Godwin Emefiele, signing MoU in April 2018

“We are pleased about the reversal of previous determination by the NCC which will now provide us an opportunity to come up with a fair payment method for the USSD channels and we look forward to robust engagement with all the stakeholders. We had said it would amount to double charging and the fairness is for the Banks to pay the operators for using their USSD channels for providing the services to their customers, as the banks charge their customers a premium for this service.

On the accumulated debt, Adebayo said: “It is a service that we have provided and the banks have charged the user account so it’s only fair for them to pay us what they owe us. They have to pay. It’s monies that they have received and they must pay the providers of the USSD link which are the operators.

“We thank the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy as well as the NCC for giving due consideration to this issue and we look forward to a way forward with all the critical stakeholders,” he added.

Mobileswagg.com.ng believes that this issue has become so critical for the two regulators, The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC and Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to resolve urgently.

Recall that in 2018, the two signed a Memorandum of Understanding on payment systems in Nigeria.

The MoU bothers on very crucial areas of collaboration between them with respect to financial inclusion strategy, already being driven by the CBN.

At the signing ceremony, Prof. Umar Danbatta spoke on the Commission’s critical review of the existing framework for the regulation of mobile payments in Nigeria, within the membership of a Committee comprising of the CBN, NCC, NDIC and the NIBSS.

Emefiele on his part also spoke on the critical importance of telecoms on the Nigerian economy and also congratulated the Commission on its efforts towards protecting the interest of telecom consumers and service providers.

The two regulatory bodies re-assured each other that they will continue to partner and collaborate on shared terms for the actualization of their mutual mandates and enhancement of human lives.

So, if this USSD lingering issue is allowed to continue, it could put a strain on that agreement and the Nigerian people and the entire economy will suffer greatly as a result.

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