The Federal Government has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to order the suspension of MTN’s proposed N4 charge on USSD banking services. The charge was meant to take effect from Monday, October 21.
Over the weekend, subscribers took to social media to push back on the telco’s plan. And in response, a statement signed by Uwa Suleiman, Spokesperson to the Honourable Minister of Communications, promptly ordered a suspension of the USSD plan until the minister was properly briefed.
Some telecoms subscribers alleged that they received a viral text message sent by MTN Nigeria notifying them of a N4 charge per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services.
“Yello, as requested by your bank, from October 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please, contact your bank for more info,’’ the message said.
Alleged MTN viral text
However, Dr Isa Ibrahim Pantami, the Federal Minister of Communication, has said in a post that he had not been informed about any of such plans and hence directed the NCC to order MTN to suspend the plan.
Responding to the proposed USSD charge, the CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said the bank would not allow that to happen. He said that the charge was sunk cost and not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom companies.
“USSD is a sunk cost. What we mean by a sunk cost is that it is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom company but the telecom companies disagreed with us. Telecom companies say it was an additional investment on infrastructure and for that reason, they needed to impose it. I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen.”
Mr Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor
However, a top official at MTN speaking to the Daily Trust said that other telecom operators have been charging their customers for USSD before they can access their banks, so they will still go ahead with introducing the charge.
“Bank Committees with the knowledge of CBN told us to charge the customers directly. Before it was the banks that deducted the whole charge, now it was agreed in a meeting with CBN knowledge that we should now charge N4 directly, and that the banks should charge their customers the rest. It should be N22: we charge N4 and they should deduct the remaining. But as it is now, the banks are still taking the whole N22.” – A top official at MTN revealed
Meanwhile, MTN’s proposed USSD charge has continued to spark protests from Nigerians online. A Twitter user Ebubechukwu believes subscribers should simply stop using the code and start using apps since they don’t attract charges.
And in response to the Federal Government’s decision to suspend the plan, there have been calls to scrap it completely.
If the USSD charge is implemented, the transactions to be affected include intra-bank and inter-bank money transfers, through USSD services.