The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to summon the stakeholders of financial and telecoms industries for a meeting concerning the USSD dispute.
The meeting, the association said, would be beneficial to the consumers and stakeholders at large as it would help to address and clarify the controversial issues that occurred in the past few days regarding the USSD charges.
The ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo explained that the USSD channel had changed over time from a channel used only for telco-related services such as balance inquiry and recharges, to one that can be used for services relating to financial, insurance, agricultural and government services, among others.
According to Adebayo, the USSD channel is now delivered using the Standalone Dedicated Control Channel (SDCCH) which is also used for call set-up, SMS set-up, and delivery. The high usage of the USSD channel has made the telcos to bear additional costs which emanate from additional SDCCH channels.
“In order to accelerate the adoption of financial services on USSD, the banks partnered with our members to zero-rate the USSD access to end-users, while the banks bore the cost for the provision of service.
“Based on this arrangement, the banks took on the responsibility of billing customers and paid our members for use of the USSD infrastructure from the service fees deducted from the customer’s bank account. These service fees charged by the banks were however far in excess of the costs remitted to our members by the Banks for providing the USSD platform and have since remained so.
“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 will be discontinued post-implementation of end-user billing by our members.
“The removal of these service fees by the banks would have meant that if bank customers were charged only the USSD costs communicated by our members per USSD session, bank customers will be paying far less than what they are currently being charged by the banks which in some instances are as high as N50,” Adebayo said.
Prior to this call, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had suspended the end-user billing for financial transactions by telcos through USSD channel.