Telecoms, Banks agree on USSD charges

Following the involvement of Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the two industry regulators, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), agreed yesterday to find a middle ground in their dispute.

Mr. Karl Toriola, the chief executive officer of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, the group CEO of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, who is also the chairman of the Body of Bank CEOs in Nigeria, Mr. Segun Agbaje, the group CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and MTN Nigeria’s chief financial officer, Modupe Kadri, met virtually yesterday and agreed to return to the 4.5 USSD Commission on airtime purchase.

MTN lowered the commission payable to value added service (VAS) aggregators and banks from 4.5 percent to 2.5 percent on Thursday, March 31, 2021, with effect from Friday, April 1, 2021.

The abrupt change in commission did not sit well with aggregators and banks, who immediately prohibited MTN subscribers from selling airtime via bank accounts or the USSD website.

A letter signed by the MTN CEO, Toriola and addressed to Wigwe which was a follow-up on the virtual meeting stated that, “In an attempt to resolve the current USSD impasse, given the intervention of our regulators, we hereby agree that the banks revert back to the status quo of 4.5 per cent commission.

“However, the banks and MTN Nigeria Plc shall sit to agree on various options that will result in the costs on 6th of April 2021.” The letter was copied to the executive vice chairman/CEO of NCC.

Clarifying further when contacted by LEADERSHIP, Toriola said: “The document was issued by me to the banks on the specific intervention of the CBN governor and the minister for communications and digital economy. MTN’s intention has always been geared towards business optimisation to the benefit of our customers and indeed the country.

“This is evidenced by the fact that through the USSD imbroglio, we never denied access to our customers. In the current case, customers have been denied access to services by the banks despite having monies in their accounts to purchase those services. MTN will naturally do all it can to minimise customers pain. It is not just about revenue for us.

“The good of our customers influence every decision we take. The CBN Governor’s intervention is in line with our core values. We acceded to his request and that of our minister. We will continue to live our values that everyone deserves the benefits of modern connected life.”

Meanwhile, MTN confirmed that its new alliance with financial technology companies (Fintechs) as alternative platforms for airtime vending will continue, noting that subscribers can buy MTN airtime via Flutterwave, JumiaPay, Kuda Carbon, BillnPay, myMTN Web, Mobile money agents, and OPay.

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Ogbonna Ugorji

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