In a bid to protect the interest of consumers and support a robust telecommunications sector the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has revised its determination on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) pricing published on the July 23, 2019.
The amendment was necessitated following a protracted dispute between Mobile Network Operators and Financial Institutions on the applicable charges for USSD services and the method of billing.
In a statement, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC , Professor Umar Danbatta notes that as a responsive and effective regulatory authority, the commission recognize that their policies are not static and may be modified from time to time as circumstances demand.
According to Professor Danbatta, the NCC in the interest of the consumers and other stakeholders, has revised the Determination previously issued by removing the Price Floor and the Cap to allow the Mobile Network Operators and the banks negotiate rates that will be mutually beneficial to all parties concerned.
He added that the NCC also determined that Mobile Network Operators must not charge the consumers directly for the use of USSD channels for financial services in the form of end-user-billing and the transaction should be between the MNOs and the entity to which the service is provided ( Banks and Financial Institutions).
This according to the EVC is also coming on the heels of a recent directive by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, regarding a review of the USSD pricing by all parties involved and a presentation made by the Commission on the billing structure, determination of USSD pricing, current status and the way forward.
During the presentation, the Minister said that he suspended the commencement of end-user billing where the consumers are charged directly from their airtime balance for use of USSD channels as opposed to corporate billing where the banks paid the MNOs for the use of USSD service because he was besieged with a barrage of complaints at the attempted commencement of end-user billing by service providers.
The Minister also clarified that “USSD is a service to banks and not to the Telecom Consumers, and as such, banks should see themselves as corporate customers of telecom operators with a duty to pay for using the telecom network and infrastructure, including USSD channels extended to them for service delivery to their customers.
“Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have no direct relationship to bank customers, and cannot therefore charge directly for usage of USSD channel.”
Dr Pantami pointed out that USSD channel has evolved over time from a telco-exclusive channel used for only telco services such as balance inquiry and recharges to a channel for the deployment of a broad spectrum of services, including financial, insurance, agricultural, government services and more, pointing out that the use of USSD channel has become a critical resource in the economy even more so in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic that has witnessed a rise in reliance on digital services.