The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has stepped in to mediate the ongoing dispute between telecoms firms and deposit money banks (DMBs) over the non-payment for the provision of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to bank users by service providers. The withdrawal of services by telecom operators on Friday had caused inconvenience for customers accessing online banking transactions that rely on the USSD platform.
In a statement, Dr. Isa Abdulmumin, the spokesperson for the CBN, clarified that the dispute arose from technical issues surrounding the definition of a successful transaction from both the bank and telco perspectives. The CBN had previously intervened in March 2021 to establish a per session price of N6.98 for the banks and telcos, ensuring a resolution at that time.
Abdulmumin further explained that the USSD fees charged by DMBs are based on a customer’s successful banking transaction, while telcos expect charges to apply once the USSD short-code is dialed, irrespective of whether a financial transaction is completed.
The CBN has proposed a direct billing model as a long-term solution to the dispute, allowing telcos to charge their customers directly and providing full visibility of USSD transactions. However, the feasibility of this model is still being discussed by relevant stakeholders.
The USSD platform plays a vital role in providing financial services to the financially excluded, vulnerable, and critical mass in Nigeria. The CBN remains committed to resolving the contentious issues surrounding telco charges for USSD in the interest of the financial system and the overall economy.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) confirmed that it had granted the service providers’ request to withdraw their services from banks due to the banks’ reluctance to pay their debt for USSD services. Efforts to resolve the debt issue had been ongoing since 2021, but the lack of a signed agreement between the parties hindered progress. The NCC emphasized that the telecom firms had provided infrastructure for the USSD services but had not received payment from the banks.
While the NCC had previously prioritized consumer interests, the mounting debt burden forced the commission to allow the service providers to withdraw their services. The NCC urged all parties to respect the agreements and work towards a resolution that benefits the consumers and ensures the smooth functioning of telecom services.