Banks owe telecom companies N17bn from USSD deductions – NBC

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The executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Garba Danbatta said yesterday that commercial banks in the country owe telecommunications companies over N17 billion on deductions made from subscribers’ Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) bank transfers since 2019.

Danbatta disclosed this at the virtual forum of the Association of Licensed Telecom operators in Nigeria (ALTON) 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 was working with the minister of communications and digital economy, Dr. Isa Pantami and other stakeholders in the banking sector to ensure a quick settlement of the debt.

Speaking on behalf of the telecommunication companies, the chairman of ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, said while the companies see the reviewed determination on 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.

“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 owed to the telecommunication companies, 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.”

Meanwhile, Pantami directed the telecom operators to cease from deducting charges from subscribers on bank transfers since banks also make same deductions on user’s bank accounts.

The operators agreed to abide by it but insisted that the banks must be made not only to settle the outstanding debt but also agree to consistently pay as and when due to avoid withdrawal of the support link to the services.

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