The Body of Banks’ Chief Executive Officers has cleared the air on the controversial Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) charges initiated by MTN Nigeria Communications Plc (MTN), as the group said it did not ask the telco to make such deduction from banks’ depositors.

Some MTN subscribers, who are GTBank depositors, received text messages on Sunday, stating that from Monday, October 21, every usage of USSD code for banking services would attract N4 per 20 seconds.

It read, “Yello, Please note that from Oct 21, we will charge N4 per 20 seconds for USSD access to banking services. Thank you.” 

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However, a statement issued by the entire Committee of Bank CEOs and obtained by Nairametrics stated, “Our attention has been drawn to Short Messages System (SMS) sent last Saturday and Sunday by MTN to customers of banks in Nigeria in respect of the above. The message states that the banks requested MTN to start charging customers for USSD transactions directly. It also asks customers to contact their banks for more information but the decision on what to charge on USSD is entirely the telco’s.” 

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Details of the groups’ response: The banks did not ask MTN to start charging customers as contained in the text message. The decision on whether, and what amount, to charge a customer for accessing USSD is entirely that of the telco company, in the same way a customer is billed for calls, SMS and data.

  • MTN is the only Telco that is yet to implement end-user billing which is the standard practice for customer-initiated transactions. This is despite the fact that the banks, working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), have engaged the Telcos over a period of more than one year to try and bring down the cost of USSD to aid financial inclusion.
  • The banks are determined to pursue the National Financial Inclusion Strategy of the Federal Government of Nigeria and will continue to advocate that Telcos identify wholeheartedly with this laudable initiative and implement transparent and low pricing model in the use of USSD access codes.
  • We wish to reiterate that financial transaction charges are regulated by the CBN as stipulated in the Bankers Tariff and that the charges for financial transactions carried out with banks remain unchanged.

What is USSD? It is simply a code that you enter on your phone to enable you enjoy certain banking services. These are services that could have otherwise taken you to the banking hall, the ATM, or an Internet-connected desktop, laptop, iPad or smartphone for Internet banking.

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Meanwhile, Nairametrics had reported the effects of the development on depositors.

How this affects you:  USSD code is a Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application program in the network.

  • Basically, by simply entering a USSD code (designated by your bank) on your mobile phone that is not even connected to the Internet, you can enjoy several banking services that otherwise may have necessitated you going to the banking hall, an ATM or an Internet-connected computer.
  • With the new charge imposed, it means the service is no longer free and a user will now pay N4 per 20 seconds used.
  • Meanwhile, users who may want to avoid this charge will need to download the banks’ applications for transaction.

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