MTN bows, suspends USSD charges

MTN Nigeria says it has not started charging its subscribers for bank transactions done via unstructured supplementary service data (USSD).

The USSD allows banks’ customers access to bank services via their mobile phones.Many MTN’s subscribers became agitated on Sunday when they received messages from the company informing them that with effect from Monday, it will start charging N4 per 20 seconds for USSD.
But speaking on Monday, Funsho Aina, the senior manager, external relations of MTN, said the telecom company had not started implementing the new charge. He said the company put the charge on hold as result of a directive from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Isa Patami, the minister of communications had on Sunday directed NCC to ask MTN to halt the planned charge. READ ALSO: Minister directs NCC to address data depletion by telcos
‘’Many thanks for drawing my attention to it. We have directed NCC to ask MTN to suspend the plan. We are not aware of it officially. We will investigate and make sure right thing is done. Best wishes,’’ the minister said.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has also told banks to yank off businesses from telecommunication operators that charge bank customers using USSD to make transactions.
Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, gave the order during a press briefing at the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF meetings in Washington DC on Sunday. He explained that “about five months ago, I held a meeting with some telecom companies as well as the leading banks in Nigeria and the issue of USSD came up.
“At that time, we came to conclusion that the use of USSD is a sunk cost which is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom companies. But the telecoms companies disagreed with us and said it’s an additional investment and they needed to impose it. I appeal to them that they should review it downwards and they refused,’ he said. Explaining further Mr. Emefiele said:
“I understand that three or four weeks ago, rather than reduce it, they went ahead to increase it by 300 per cent. I opposed it and I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen. The banks are the people who give this business to the telecoms 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”.