Banks Exempt Two Items From New N6.98 Fee On USSD

TECH DIGEST – Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in the country have started notifying their customers of the commencement of the N6.98 deduction on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) transactions, but two major line transactions are exempted, findings by showed over the weekend.

The new charge replaces the current N4.89 session billing structure, but will not be charged on two items: Airtime and Data purchases. One of the emails sent to a customer by a Tier 2 lender on the matter reads in part:

“Please be informed that you are now required to pay a fee of N6.98 to your mobile network provider for every banking transaction carried out on all USSD banking platforms.

“This means that when you access any banking service using USSD, a fee of N6.98 will be charged to your bank account, which is in turn remitted in full by your Bank, to your mobile network provider.

“Please note that Airtime and Data purchases via USSD are exempt from this charge.”

The implementation of the new billing structure follows an agreement reached in March between DMBs and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), which was brokered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), that the N6.98 charge should replace the previous charge of N4.89 session billing structure for USSD transactions.

The CBN and the NCC had called the meeting after MNOs announced plans to suspend USSD services over banks’ failure to settle N42 billion accumulated debt .

The joint statement by CBN and NCC read in part: “Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs and all CBN – licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98k per transaction.

This replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion.

This approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.

“To promote transparency in its administration, the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customers’ bank accounts. Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel.

“A settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for USSD services, previously rendered by the MNOs, is being worked out by all parties in a bid to ensure that the matter is fully resolved.

“MNOs and DMBs shall discuss and agree on the operational modalities for the implementation of the new USSD pricing framework, including sharing of Application Programme Interface (APIs) to enable seamless, direct and transparent customer billing.”

One of the leading MNOs, MTN Nigeria, also confirmed the implementation of the plan, adding that the deductions commenced on June 3.

“Effective June 3, 2021, each USSD Banking transaction will attract a charge of N6.98 exclusive of VAT for use of the USSD Banking channel. The money will be deducted from your bank, by your bank,” the Telco stated.