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Financial Inclusion: Bank CEOs Kick Against Telcos Corporate-Level USSD Billing

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EXCLUSIVE

The CEOs of the Money Deposit Bank in Nigeria have kicked against a new corporate billing system for the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data [USSD] recently introduced by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).

The banks’ chief claimed that such corporate billing would render the financial inclusion initiative of Federal Government unattainable.

The MNOs led by MTN Nigeria and Airtel have recently instructed the USSD aggregators that provide services for the banks in the country to subscribe to a corporate level billing for USSD services.

The newly introduced corporate level billing for the USSD services is forcing the banks to adhere to N4.5 per USSD session of 20 seconds. This amount to about 450% increase in tariff.

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While expressing their grouse, the banks’ CEO petitioned the telcos under the Body of Banks’ Chief Executive Officers – a committee of the governing council of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria [CIBN] – lamented that the new tariff will frustrate the financial inclusion strides made by the banks where over 20 million Nigerians have been included by building services that run on the USSD.

Dated September 16, 2019, the letter was signed by 13 bank CEOs. It was addressed to the Managing Director of MTN Nigeria and a copy was issued to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] and the Chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).

The bank CEOs in the letter recognised the USSD as a critical national asset to drive financial inclusion has served all stakeholders well, especially those previously excluded Nigerians.

The bank CEOs also vowed to resist the implementation of the new USSD tariff.

“We will resist the move to reverse billing by multinational telecoms companies for the good of our national agenda. Reverse billing gives no visibility on actual sessions used, forces us to pay for failed sessions and leaves us exposed to spurious USSD usage that will increase cost.”

The bank CEOs however proposed an orderly implementation of end-user billing for bank customers, aligning with standard practice for USSD billing.

“Customers using non-bank services already pay for USSD sessions. It forces cost transparency between the telecoms company and customer, and will ensure the customer demands a reliable service that works when they need it at a price they can afford.

“In the reverse corporate billing situation, we are unable to attain neither competitiveness nor transparency,” the bank CEOs submitted.

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However, they warned the telcos not to use the USSD as a tool to ransom banks into exiting their financial inclusion goals as everybody will lose out, most notably the vulnerable and financially excluded Nigerians.

“Our relationship until this juncture has been a symbolic one that benefits the millions of users of cost effective banking solutions, the banks and the telecom companies for whom bank channels have become one of the biggest sellers of airtime using the same USSD channels and other applications and integrations,” the bank CEOs further argued.

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