Nigerian telcos have threatened to suspend its Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, USSD, services due to N42bn debt accumulated by banks.
The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria made this known in a statement jointly signed by ALTON chairman Gbenga Adebayo and head of operations, Gbolahan Awonuga.
The suspension from the USSD services would begin March 15, 2021, but it would be in phases first with the worst debtors.
The statement disclosed that telcos were into partnership with financial service providers on bearing the cost of USSD access by end-users.
ALTON said the agreement was suspended due to the issuance of the USSD pricing determination by the Nigerian Communications Commission.
NCC had in August last year directed all Mobile Network Operators to charge banks directly for USSD services.
The commission said it was in furtherance of its mandate to protect consumers and support a robust sector.
“Mobile Network Operators have no direct relationship with bank customers, and cannot therefore charge directly for usage of USSD channel,” the minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami had said.
Based on the pricing regime, Mobile Network Operators and banks were to agree on pricing to be applied on USSD services.
ALTON said, “The banks decided that they would no longer pay for USSD service delivered to their customers and requested our members to charge customers directly for use of the USSD channel.
“This billing methodology where the customer is directly charged USSD access fees by our members irrespective of the service charges that the bank may subsequently apply to the customers’ bank account is called ‘End-User Billing’ which the banks specifically demanded that all our members implement.
“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 would be discontinued post implementation of end-user billing by our members.”
The telcos decried that despite reaching eight months after the NCC issued an updated pricing for USSD the banks were yet to comply.
The telcos said regardless of the failure of banks to fulfil their obligations, they have continued to provide access to USSD.
It added, “Unfortunately, as it has been impossible to agree on a structure for these payments with the banks that do not involve the end-user being asked to pay.
“We deeply regret that we have reached a point where the withdrawal of these services has become unavoidable.”