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USSD Charges: Communications Minister counters telcos, directs NCC to ensure status quo is maintained

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Dr. Isa Pantami
Relief is on the way for telecommunication consumers who use Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) Channels to access banking services as the Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami, has swiftly ordered network operators to shelve the implementation of payment of new charges from October 21.

The Minister has also directed the industry regulator – the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure the telecom network operators, especially MTN Nigeria, maintains the status quo until he is properly briefed about the proposed charges.

Recall, that some telecommunications network service providers sent notices to their customers of the new charge.

“Please note that from Oct 21, we will charge N4 per 20 seconds for USSD access to banking services. Thank you,” a notification sent by MTN to customers read.

Banking services were introduced on USSD channels to ensure easier access to banking services.

Before now, telcos charged customers per USSD session.

This charge differed across networks with the highest being N20 per session.

However, this new charge would mean that customers will be charged N12 for every minute spent on the USSD channel.

Already, the development has elicited reactions from customers and they have taken to social media to express how they feel on social media.

Some customers went as far as sending messages to their banks for further information on the charges.

Some banks have responded saying their charges remain unchanged.

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“Our fees and charges on the USSD service remain unchanged and all our services are available,” Access Bank’s Twitter account replied a customer.

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Dr. Pantami, in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman (Mrs), said that his office “is unaware of this development”.

The Minister has therefore “directed the sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ensures the operator suspends such plans until the Honourable Minister is fully and properly briefed”.

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