The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that commercial banks in Nigeria are currently in debt of over N17 billion to telecommunications companies, following the regulator’s suspension of its Determination on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) pricing in 2019.
Umar Garba Danbatta, the executive vice chairman of NCC, revealed this, saying that the NCC has now revised the determination on the USSD to further protect the interests of telecom consumers and support a robust telecommunications sector.
Speaking at the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON’s) virtual forum 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”, Danbatta said that Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami, the minister of communications and digital economy had already been briefed on the development with a view to ensuring a quick settlement of the debt.
Explaining the commission’s efforts at resolving consumer related issues, the EVC said that when the commission introduced the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) code in 2015, less than 500,000 people activated the code, but there are now 22,722,366 lines on the DND.
Danbatta further stated that 98 percent of the total service-related complaints received from telecoms consumers within a 15-month period, spanning January 2019 to April 2020, have been successfully resolved by the regulatory body.
On quality of service, Danbatta said “the commission has monthly engagements with operators as well as quarterly industry working group on quality of service and short codes, and is currently monitoring 2G key performance indicators, while the KPIs for 4G are being prepared.”
It should be recalled that the NCC in a statement released to the media recently, observed that the amendment to its USSD Determination was necessitated by a protracted dispute between Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and financial institutions on the applicable charges for USSD services and the method of billing. The regulatory body says it recognises that its policies are not static and may be modified from time to time as circumstances demand.
According to Danbatta, in the interest of the consumers and other stakeholders, the commission revised the determination previously issued by removing the price floor and the cap to allow mobile network operators and the banks negotiate rates that will be mutually beneficial to all parties concerned.
The NCC also determined that telecom operators must not charge the consumers directly for the use of USSD channels for financial services in the form of end-user-billing, but revert to corporate billing. The transaction should be between the MNOs and the entity to which the service is provided (i.e. Banks and Financial Institutions).