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N6.98 USSD flat rate will stabilise payment system, says CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said the harmonisation of all Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) fees to a single rate of N6.98 will stabilise Nigeria’s payment system.

In a report released yesterday, the apex bank said the exercise, which has the backing of key stakeholders, including the National Communication Commission (NCC)  will boost bank customers’ confidence in the payment system, bring more unbanked and underbanked to the financial system and ensure sustainability of the services to e-payment customers.

According to the apex bank, all USSD charges will henceforth be collected directly from customers’bank accounts on behalf of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)  to promote transparency in its administration.

The apex bank said the new plan replaces the per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion adding that the approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.

It said the wide acceptance and usage of the USSD shows that it remans  the best and fastest available communications technology that delivers mobile financial services to s, low-income customers.

The apex bank said it will continue to engage relevant operators and all stakeholders to promote cheaper, seamless access to mobile and financial services for all Nigerians.

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The apex bank said that with the new policy, the disagreements that have for long exists between the MNOs and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) will be put to rest, while assuring that  there will no longer be additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel.

“The protracted disagreements between DMBs and MNOs concerning the appropriate USSD pricing model for financial transactions has been put to rest,” it said.

The CBN added that  the USSD is a critical channel for delivering financial services, particularly for the underserved and/or financially excluded.

The resolution framework for pending debts owed MNOs, which is acceptable to all parties has also adopted 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 (API) to enable seamless, direct and transparent customer billing. DMBs and MNOs are committed to engaging further on strategies to lower cost and enhance access to financial services,” it said.

The stakeholders said the USSD channel remained optional, as several alternative channels such as mobile apps, internet banking and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) may be used for financial transactions.

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