More controversy as USSD debt rises to N45b | The Guardian Nigeria News

• Telcos insist banks pay outstanding debt
The fragile settlement reached between telecom operators and depository banks (DMBs) last week over the ongoing crisis surrounding the use of unstructured supplemental service data (USSD) may soon fall apart.

Indeed, while banks claim not to be beholden to telecom operators, mobile network operators (MNOs) insist that DMBs are beholden to them. They revealed that since the crises became public, the debt has gone from 42 billion naira to 45 billion naira.

As such, they insisted that all debts be properly paid. The USSD crisis had led to a threat from telecom operators, who planned to disconnect banks from accessing the service.

But the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, who both asked telecom operators not to disconnect banks in the hope that the matter will be resolved amicably via further meetings.

However, a recent Bloomberg report, in which the banks denied owing telecom operators the said amount, has sparked further controversy.

Access Bank Plc chief executive Herbert Wigwe was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: “There is no obligation owed by banks to telecom operators. We have chosen not to make this a public statement because it is not appropriate for us to be caught fighting with telecom operators in public.

Wigwe said telecom companies are asking banks to return them money even for transactions that have not taken place, adding: “It is true that they continue to provide this service but this service has not nothing to do with banks.

Reacting to the case in a conversation with The Guardian, the chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said in a meeting with CBN and the Nigerian Communications Commission ( NCC) that the terms of the settlement had been discussed. and will be agreed in a memorandum of understanding with the two regulators.

“We also don’t want to get involved in the problems with the banks, but the fact remains that the banks have been using the USSD channels for over a year without paying and they cannot deny that the services of the channels USSD were not made available to them by telecom.

“Banks charged their customers for using USSD channels and they did not pay telecom operators for using the services.

“They cannot take advantage of a service and would not pay. Because no service is free. Not even the banking services offered to telcos.

Adebayo said debt of more than 45 billion naira remained unpaid and banks had to pay telecom operators. He said it had become a moral obligation because banks were using the services, debiting their customer accounts and no longer paying telecom operators.

“Who do they expect to pay and what were the deductions made to their customers for USSD services (which you and I were charged)? What is the deduction for? It’s a debt and the banks have to pay the operators. It is a moral obligation. It was 42 billion naira in January, and the number has been steadily increasing, but by the time the parties met, it had risen to 45 billion naira,” did he declare.

The ALTON boss said telcos hoped that regulators (CBN and NCC) having stepped in by preventing carriers from disconnecting USSD services would resolve lingering debt issues.

According to him, the banks owed the operators “and they will pay. If not, ask them where the money is deducted for their customers’ USSD services. You and I know we were charged for USSD transactions, what is the deduction for? »

Commenting on the development, a telecommunications expert, Kehinde Aluko, said banks have tried to remove the cost of using USSD but are willing to cut off subscribers to protect their fees earned through the channel.

Recall that the CBN and the NCC had in a statement issued after a meeting to resolve the disagreement on USSD fees between banks and telecommunications operators agreed that as of March 16, 2021, USSD services for Financial transactions conducted at banks and all CBN-licensed establishments would be charged at a flat rate of N6.98k per transaction.

This is meant to replace the old per-session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to ensure financial inclusion.

“To promote transparency, the new USSD fees will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customer bank accounts. “Banks will not charge customers additional fees for using USSD channels.” A settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for USSD services previously rendered by MNOs is being developed by all parties to ensure that the matter is fully resolved,” the statement said.

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