Telecommunications operators in the country have said they would be withdrawing the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) service from banks with effect from Monday, March 15. If implemented, bank customers in the country would not be able to use the various USSD codes of banks for financial transactions. Speaking through their umbrella body, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the telcos said the withdrawal of the service became inevitable as the banks have refused to pay their debts running into over N42 billion, even after the government’s intervention
. ALTON said in a statement released yesterday and signed by its Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, that: “Our members are initiating a phased process of withdrawal of USSD services, starting with the most significant debtors within the Financial Service Providers (FSPs) effective Monday, March 15.
“While the withdrawal of USSD service is in place, we encourage our subscribers to kindly explore alternative channels with their banks. “We deeply regret that we have reached a point where the withdrawal of these services has become unavoidable, however, we remain committed to working closely with the relevant ministries and regulators to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.
“To minimise the disruption to customers, and with the concurrence of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), on the huge debt to the Network operators; Mobile Network Operators will disconnect debtor Financial Service Providers (FSPs) from USSD services until the huge debt is paid,” Adebayo said. According to Adebayo, it has been more than eight months since the NCC issued an updated pricing methodology for USSD services for financial transactions in Nigeria. The methodology, he said, explicitly restricts Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s) from charging the end-user for the services and mandates the banking sector to enter into negotiations to settle outstanding obligations and agree on individual pricing mechanisms to be applied going forwards.
He said: “During this time, Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s) have continued to provide access to USSD infrastructure and our members have continued to pay all bank charges and fees to access the Banking industries assets and customers, despite the fact that obligations due from banks to telecoms companies for USSD services has reached over N42 billion.”