November 27, 2019

USSD: CBN, stakeholders in dialogue for new pricing regime

As ATCON faults channel

By Elizabeth Adegbesan & Chiamaka Uba

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it is in dialogue with Telecommunications companies (Telcos) and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) for new pricing regime for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and would get back to Nigerians as soon as a decision is made.

The Director Payment System Management, CBN, Samuel Okojere disclosed this at the recent 2019 Mobile Money Conference organized by the Association of Licensed Mobile Payment Operators (ALMPO)in collaboration with the apex bank, in Lagos.

On 20th October 2019, MTN subscribers received a love letter from MTN. The message read: “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.”

ALSO READ: CBN opposes MTN’s planned charges for USSD transactions

Shortly after, another Yello message was sent to inform Nigerians that the N4.00K charge on every 20 seconds session access to USSD banking services.

Speaking on the theme: “Accelerating mobile money adoption in Nigeria: The role of regulators”, Okojere, represented by Aisha Isa-Olatinwo, Assistant Director Payment System Department, CBN said: “Digital disruption has made it possible to leverage the penetration of mobile phones for mobile payments through innovative payment solution. The solutions are often complemented by the presence of agents for cash in and cash out and other services being offered by mobile payments.

“However, there is a huge investment required in building an agent network at communities that are offering this advantage.
“Engagement with the NCC is still ongoing to find a new conducive pricing regime for USSD services in the Industry.

“My Director, hereby, conclude, notwithstanding the progress made in Mobile Money adoption we have a lot of ground to cover up in Nigeria as a whole. The last survey by EfiNa showed that the level of exclusion is still far from the national target. Our challenge is more pronounced in the part of the country with insurgency and other skirmishes.

“Furthermore, it is necessary that we improve the agent’s footprints across the country to bring the services closer to the excluded. This represents the opportunity for mobile money operators to make their operations counts in a quest to have a highly inclusive financial system in Nigeria.”

In his welcome address, Chairman ALMPO, Chinedu Onuoha, explained that the theme of the conference ‘Beyond Payments’ aptly captures the general direction of the industry saying ” We are of the opinion, and rightfully so, that for the objectives of financial inclusion to be realised, we must go beyond payments, as we try to attract more people into formal financial services.

“We are aware that the financial needs of the average citizen are much more than pay and receive. People want to save and earn interest. They want to participate in pensions; they need some form of insurance and many more. We also know that for all of this to be realised, there must be adequate security and trust in the system.”

Meanwhile, the President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, Olusola Teniola. has faulted the USSD channel saying that it is a wrong channel and it is vulnerable to fraud.

He also cautioned banks to stop blaming the Telcos for problems associated with the use of USSD.

He said: “USSD has fraud issues. USSD as we have seen it has an entrusted protocol. It is a whole protocol based on feature phones basically 2G phones. Nigeria, being the largest market for handsets, has a lot of fake phones dumped into this market.

“So, there are a lot of these phones that are contravening the original USSD applications and so it wasn’t my decision that the banks decided to use the USSD as a channel that is something for you to answer and actually be responsible for your consumers because you did not do the full fugitives. So don’t blame the telcos. Now we give you an enabling platform. But as we said in the beginning, read the instructions on the sides of the theme.