August 7, 2020

USSD: Banks owe telcos N17bn, says Danbatta

The NCC, Telcos and the Tariff discourse

The NCC, Telcos and the Tariff discourse

By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor

The Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, on Thursday, disclosed that commercial banks in the country owe telecommunications companies, telcos, over N17 billion on deductions made from subscribers’ bank transfers since 2019.

This follows the directive by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, that telecom operators cease, forthwith, from deducting charges from subscribers on bank transfers since banks also make same deductions on user’s bank accounts.

That is also as the operators have agreed to comply with the order, but insisted that the banks must be made to not only settle the outstanding debt but agree to consistently pay as and when due to avoid withdrawal of the support link to the services.

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Danbatta made the revelation at ATCON’s virtual forum on “Meeting the Interests of Government, Consumers and Telecoms Companies in the Era of Covid-19 and Post Covid-19 Pandemic for Digital Economy Development”.

He said the commission is putting heads together with Pantami and other stakeholders in the banking sector to ensure a quick settlement of the debt.

Speaking on behalf of the telcos, Chairman of Association of Licensed Telecom operators in Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, said while the telcos see the reviewed determination on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, USSD, pricing as a welcome development, it would also be pertinent for all stakeholders to impress it on the banks, the responsibility to pay the debt and agree to pay as when due.

He said: “We had expressed our concern about the end-user billing; which is a situation where operators will deduct the cost of USSD service from subscribers data and the banks will still deduct a charge from the user bank account for the same service.

“We believe the directive will now provide an opportunity to remedy the situation and bring closure to this issue.

“We are pleased about the reversal of previous determination by the NCC, which will now provide us an opportunity to come up with a fair payment method for the USSD channels and we look forward to robust engagement with all the stakeholders.

“We had said it would amount to double charging and the fairness is for the banks to pay the operators for using their USSD channels for providing the services to their customers, as the banks charge their customers a premium for this service.”

On the accumulated debt banks owe telcos, Adebayo said: “It is a service that we have provided and the banks have charged the user account so it’s only fair for them to pay us what they owe us.

“They have to pay. It’s monies that they have received and they must pay the providers of the USSD link which are the operators.

“We thank the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy as well as NCC for giving due consideration to this issue and we look forward to a way forward with all the critical stakeholders.”