WHEN giant telecom company, MTN, last week announced its decision to charge customers for using the USSD to access banking services, Nigerians were taken aback. MTN had in an SMS message posited that “Yello, as requested by your bank, from Oct. 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please contact your bank for more information”.

THIS development did not go down well with Nigerians who expressed outrage on the social media over MTN’s plan to impose the new charges on the customers who are already burden by series of other mindboggling charges in the country.

ONE worrisome thing was the fact that MTN in the same SMS lied to its customers, when it claimed that the decision was at the request of the banks and would take effect from October 21, 2019. This is barefaced deception that should not be allowed to go unpunished, using the statute laws.

The Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) or sometimes referred to as ‘Quick codes’, is a protocol used by GSM cellular phones to communicate with mobile network operator’s computers via text messages. They are commonly used to check mobile air time and data balance enquiries or to receive one-time passwords or PIN Codes among many applications.

The USSD is currently the best available communication technology to deliver mobile financial services to low-income customers. It is programmed into the SIM card or the cell phone to make it easier to perform certain functions. (i.e USSD codes include, * #)

BUT the good thing was that the Minister of Communication, Dr. Isa Pantami was there to rescue Nigerians from this untoward decision taken by the telecom company. DR. Pantami had in a statement told Nigerians that his ministry was unaware of the plan and had directed the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission, to suspend it.

“The attention of the Federal Ministry of Communications has been drawn to the viral text message, allegedly sent by the Mobile Network Operator, MTN Nigeria and other Mobile Operators notifying subscribers of a four naira (N4:00) charge per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services from the 21st of October 2019”, the statement had revealed.

NOT only that, the apex bank in the country, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had in the same vein opposed the purported plan by the MTN to apply the USSD charge at a news briefing by the Nigerian delegation to the just-concluded World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings, in Washington last Sunday. The CBN governor was said to have insisted that the bank would not allow that to happen. Indeed, we concur with the standpoint of the CBN governor.

According to the CBN Governor, he banks are the people who give this business to the telecom companies and I leave the banks and the telecom companies to engage”, had stated.

WE MTN’s move on this matter as reckless, insensitive and exploitative out to rob Nigerians of their hard earned monies, without following the requisite business protocol, on unsuspecting customers, already groaning under harsh economic realities in the country. MTN should be called to caution, and to learn to follow due process in its business dealings, as this is not the first time the giant telecom company is running foul of national regulations

WE are perhaps, consoled by the directive of the CBN last week that all banks should shun telecommunication providers that increase USSD charge, or better still, “offer the service at a lower cost”.

WE Therefore, urge the Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC to do the needful by sanctioning, not only MTN, but any erring telecom service provider that is out to play their business game not in accordance to Nigeria’s regulatory guidelines.

Categories: Editorial

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