Nigerians using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services like GT Bank’s *737* will now have to pay N6.98 for every transaction. This is according to the new charges for customers announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The apex bank revealed that USSD services for financial transactions conducted at Deposit Money Banks (GT Bank, First Bank, etc) and all CBN-licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction starting from March 16, 2021.
It added that the new charges will replace the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion.
According to the statement signed by CBN’s Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Osita Nwanisobi and Director, Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ikechukwu Adinde, this new approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.
To promote transparency in its administration, the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customers’ bank accounts. Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel.
NCC/CBN joint statement
Recall that telcos had earlier threatened to disconnect USSD services after banks have refused to pay the accumulated USSD service costs totaling over N42 billion.
The accumulated cost was based on a flat fee of N1.63 banks are to remit to telcos from the service charge collected on each USSD transaction.
However, according to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Danbatta, banks and mobile network operators (MNOs) never reached an agreement on the pricing mechanism for USSD shortcode service for financial transactions.
The latest development is based on the outcome of a meeting summoned by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami to settle the dispute.
Customers to bear the burden?
Last year, the NCC updated the USSD billing model which zero-rated USSD transactions for end-users and mandated the banks to pay telcos N1.63 per transaction from the USSD service charge.
This came after users complained that MTN was charging N4 per USSD transaction.
With the latest announcement by the CBN, it appears that the banks and telcos have resolved to put the brunt of the cost on the users contrary to the NCC initial directive.
This means that Nigerians will pay even more than the N4 they were initially complaining about. Starting from today, users of USSD will have to pay N6.98 per transaction.
However, it is still unclear who will collect the charges, banks or telcos.