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NCC orders telcos to stop USSD implementation

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MTN insists banks approved plan
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has ordered with immediate effect the stop of the planned N4 charge for the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), planned by telecoms operators.
   
A document signed by the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, yesterday, which ordered the suspension, put telecoms subscribers on note on its decision following Federal Government’s directive.
   
NCC also put financial institutions on the note on its decision to suspend the plan.
   
Meanwhile, while complying with the order, MTN insisted that it got the backing of the banks and the Board of Banks Chief Executive Officers (BOBCEOS) for the introduction of the service.

   
According to MTN Company Secretary, Uto Ukpanah, in a statement, the telecoms firm approach every day with one primary objective, which is finding ways to make its customers’ lives a little easier.
   
“Customers are the reason we made transparency and simplicity central to the recent drawn-out engagements with the banks over USSD access charges and how they should be applied,” Ukpanah stated.
   
Ukpanah explained that following consultation with industry stakeholders, customer feedback and media reports related to the message notifying the company’s customers of upcoming changes in the charging model for access to banking services via the USSD channel, “we wish to confirm that the new charging model has not gone into effect.”
    
According to her, the situation has made it necessary to restate that MTN Nigeria, in line with our company policy will always be transparent in its dealings with customers, the industry and relevant regulatory bodies.
    
“The SMS notification to our customers is reflective of this commitment and was sent after formal requests received from individual banks as well as the Body of Bank CEOs to implement end-user billing – a billing methodology where the customer is directly charged USSD access fees irrespective of the service charges that the bank may subsequently apply to their bank account,” she stated.
  
Ukpanah noted that the banks have up-till now been on a corporate billing plan, where a corporate client, the provider of the service that is accessed through the USSD channel (in this case the bank), pays the access fees at a wholesale price.
  
“We believe the costs associated with USSD banking services should be charged to the consumer only once – as with other USSD based services we provide, which we believe has been adequately provisioned for within existing Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) guidelines,” she stressed.

She disclosed that it is in line with the National Financial Inclusion Strategy of the Federal Government that MTN resisted the calls for end-user billing, adding: “We relented only after exhausting avenues of engagement with the banks in pursuit of a model that enabled a single charge. We believe separate charges by the banks and telecoms companies are an unnecessary burden on the consumer especially the target group that the National Financial Inclusion Strategy is aimed at.
  
“With this in mind, it is imperative for all parties to approach the table and engage constructively towards a solution, putting the consumer at the fore of all decisions.
  
“ The banks have been and still are our esteemed customers and valued partners. We look forward to collaborating with them and other stakeholders and will be glad to implement the decisions approved by our Regulators.”
   
Likewise, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), called for a meeting among the stakeholders involved in the matter.
    
According to the Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, “In view of this, we call on the Nigerian Communications Commission, the Central Bank of Nigeria, financial and telecoms stakeholders to address this matter urgently for the benefit of consumers.”


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