By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has opposed plans by MTN to charge their subscribers for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) access to banking services from October, 2019.
The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said the bank’s position at a news briefing by the Nigerian delegation to the just-concluded World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings, in Washington yesterday, stated that “from Monday, October 21, 2019, bank customers, who use Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) for banking services will now have to pay N4 per 20 seconds”.
In a bid to inform bank customers of the new charge, telecommunication companies have sent notifications to customers using their platforms to access banking services.
A message from MTN to their customers reads, “Yello, as requested by your bank, from Oct 21, we will charge N4 per 20 second for USSD access to banking services. Thank you”
This means, when you use a code like *111# to access a banking service, you’ll be charged N4 for 20 seconds.
However, before the introduction of the new USSD charge, telecommunication companies were charging customers per USSD session.
This charge differed across networks as the N20 was the highest charge for every minute spent on the USSD channel.
But with this new charge, customers will be charged N12 for every minute spent on the channel.
Since telcos notified their customers on the new USSD charge, Nigerians have taken to social media to share the message they received from the telecommunications company.
“Yello, as requested by your bank, from Oct. 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please contact your bank for more info(rmation),’’ the message said.
Responding to a question seeking his reaction to the announcement, the CBN governor said the bank would not allow that to happen.
“About five, four months ago, I held a meeting with some telecom companies as well as the leading banks in Nigeria at Central Bank, Lagos.
“At that time, we came to a conclusion that the use of USSD is a sunk cost. What we mean by a sunk cost is that it is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom company.
“But the telecom companies disagreed with us, they said it is an additional investment on infrastructure and for that reason they needed to impose it.
“I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen. The banks are the people who give this business to the telecom companies and I leave the banks and the telecom companies to engage.
“I have told the banks that they have to move their business, move their traffic to a telecom company that is ready to provide it at the lowest possible, if not zero cost.
“And that is where we stand, and we must achieve it,’’ he said.