The Body of Bank CEOs have explained the deal banks reached with telecommunication companies over the charges for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) for bank services that generated controversy recently.
Recall that MTN came under severe criticism for announcing early this week that it has commenced an end-user billing for bank USSD services, charging N4 for 20 seconds, saying the decision followed an agreement reached with the banks. But following the public outcry, the National Communications Commission (NCC) ordered MTN and all other telecom firms to suspend the charges immediately.
Bank CEOs have however come out to applaud the NCC for taking the swift and decisive action.
In a press release on Thursday, the bank heads explained that they never authorised the kind of billing announced by MTN.
The statement reads: ‘When presented with two options by the telecommunications companies – corporate billing versus end-user billing – banks supported the standard practice for a relationship between a telecommunications company and their subscribers. We proposed the same method they charge for voice calls, SMS and data. We then asked to work with the telecommunications companies to bring the cost of their USSD service down for Nigerians. We were therefore very surprised at the announcements from MTN on the 19th and 20th October.
“Since banks cannot reasonably be expected to charge for the service of another industry, over which they have no control of price, quality and security we are delighted that consumers will now be able to access their bank for free, using USSD. This is a giant leap for the National Financial Inclusion Strategy where, through Bank’s subsidising USSD, we have already been able to bring 20m Nigerians into the formal financial system in recent years.
“The Banks, supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria, have long advocated the designation of USSD services as a critical national asset to enable such free access to USSD. Indeed, in countries like India, free access to USSD channels have long been established to successfully drive financial inclusion.
“We look forward to working with the telecommunications industry to achieve the objectives of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. We believe that with this new development, we will achieve 80% financial inclusion in 2020.”