MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, has laid the blame for the controversial USSD Charges on customers for banking transactions squarely on the banks.

It insisted that never intended to charge banking customers for financial transactions carried out through Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, USSD, on its lines.

Recall that last weekend, the company sent out message to its subscribers informing them that beginning from October 21, the use of USSD for banking operations would attract N4 per for every 20 seconds.

This however, did not go down well with subscribers who aired their anger and opposition to the plan widely on social media Makin the Federal Government through the Ministry of Communications to direct MTN Nigeria to suspend the proposed plan.

In a statement issued on Thursday, MTN Nigeria said it decided to implement the USSD charges after exhausting avenues of discourse with the banks which insisted on the charges.

It however reassured its customers that the plan has been suspended in the interim as dialogue continues on how to resolve the issue.

Below is the full statement from MTN Nigeria:
“We at MTN Nigeria Communications Plc (MTN Nigeria) approach every day with one primary objective – finding ways to make our customers lives a little easier; which is why we will focus on what really matters, our customers.

“They are the reason we made transparency and simplicity central to the recent drawn-out engagements with the banks over USSD access charges and how they should be applied.

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“Following consultation with industry stakeholders, customer feedback and media reports related to the message notifying our customers of upcoming changes in our charging model for access to banking services via the USSD channel, we wish to confirm that the new charging model has not gone into effect.

“The situation has made it necessary to restate that MTN Nigeria, in line with our company policy will always be transparent in our dealings with customers, the industry and relevant regulatory bodies. The SMS notification to our customers is reflective of this commitment and was sent after formal requests received from individual banks as well as the body of Bank CEOs to implement end-user billing – a billing methodology where the customer is directly charged USSD access fees irrespective of the service charges that the bank may subsequently apply to their bank account.

“It should be noted that the banks had up-till now been on a corporate billing plan — where a corporate client, the provider of the service that is accessed through the USSD channel (in this case the bank), pays the access fees at a wholesale price.

“We believe the costs associated with USSD banking services should be charged to the consumer only once – as with other USSD based services we provide, which we believe has been adequately provisioned for within existing Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) guidelines.

“It is in fact in line with the National Financial Inclusion Strategy of the Federal Government that we resisted the calls for end-user billing. We relented only after exhausting avenues of engagement with the banks in pursuit of a model that enabled a single charge. We believe separate charges by the banks and telecoms companies are an unnecessary burden on the consumer especially the target group that the National Financial Inclusion Strategy is aimed at.

“With this in mind, it is imperative for all parties to approach the table and engage constructively towards a solution, putting the consumer at the fore of all decisions.

“The banks have been and still are our esteemed customers and valued partners. We look forward to collaborating with them and other stakeholders and will be glad to implement the decisions approved by our Regulators.”