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Nigeria: banks owe telcos US$45-million over USSD suspension

Commercial banks in Nigeria owe local telecommunications companies over N17-billion (approximately US$45-million) as a result of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) suspension of its determination on USSD pricing last year.

USSD real time messaging technology offers a shorter turnaround time than SMS, and is used to exchange information regarding applications for accounts, balance and other enquiries, money transfer, airtime vending, bill payment etc.

Following accusations of unsolicited deductions on bank accounts, Nigeria’s Minister of Communication Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami blocked a planned move by operators to charge users N4 (US$0.013) per every four seconds for USSD access to banking services in October 2019.

Pantami has called for a review of the USSD pricing by all parties involved after attempts to establish that the USSD is a service from telecommunications services providers to banks and not to consumers.

According to Pantami, banks should therefore pay for using telecom networks and infrastructure, including USSD channels through which they deliver services to their customers.

The Commission also amended Complaints Categories and Service Level Agreements (CC/SLA) with operators and other stakeholders.

Under the new CC/SLA, specific timelines were set for consumer complaints related to billing, voice clarity, call disruption or fluctuation, problems arising from installation and location of Base Transceiver Stations etc. to be addressed by telecommunication companies.

Speaking at a virtual sectoral forum on Thursday, organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, NCC Executive Vice Chairman Prof. Umar Danbatta highlighted the Commission’s role in resolving consumer-related complaints against telecommunication operators and said 98% of complaints received between January 2019 and April 2020 have been resolved.

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