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USSD: Telcos to Approach Court for USSD Payment

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CEM REPORT, TELECOM | The drama between Telecommunications operators (Telcos) and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria over the unpaid Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), seems not to be coming to an end. A recent development on the issue reveals that telcos have threatened to take the matter to court for a quick resolution.

Taking the USSD dispute through the legal route is the last resort according to the Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, who said telcos have explored several options at its disposal to get its accumulated ₦130 billion as of September this year from the banks.

“Since the matter has dragged on for too long, the best bet is to withdraw the USSD service from the banks and challenge them to pay for the accumulated debt that has reached N130 billion as of September this year. To get this done, we are contemplating going to court to resolve the matter,” Adebayo said.

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“The issue has lingered for too long and debt accumulated, and I think it’s time to go to court to address the issue. We are thinking so because every effort made by Telcos and the government to make the banks pay their debt has not yielded positive results. It has been like taking two steps forward and taking one step backwards.”

Speaking further on the legal route, Adebayo said the USSD service agreement with the telcos and DMBs allows both parties to seek resolve to issues through legitimate means. He elaborated further on that agreement with the banks, several years ago, to provide them with the USSD service that would enable seamless financial transactions like money transfers through mobile phones, he regretted that the banks had not kept to the agreement.

“The agreement went sour because the banks refused to keep to the agreement, which he said, had provisions for third-party intervention, that includes legal action.

“The agreement permits parties to go anywhere, including law court to resolve issues. So instead of the continuous meetings that have not yielded results, we are contemplating taking the next line of action, which is to go to court.”

Recall a CEM report where Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have agreed to offset the accumulated unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) debt owed to Telecommunication Operators.

DMBs agreed to make the payment after an intervention meeting between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), telecom operators and the banks under the corporate billing term.

The then Acting Governor CBN, Folashodun Shonubi, acknowledged that without the USSD service, there would be no digital financial inclusion and the penetration of the inclusion would be nowhere near where it is now.

Danbatta on his part explained that the resolution was reached upon the realisation that financial inclusion cannot be achieved without telecom services.

The intended legal route of the telcos seems too coincidental with the replacement of Umar Danbatta as Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Acting Governor of CBN, Folashodun Shonubi, as they chaired the intervention meeting.

Some of the banks’ think tanks believe that customers should be charged for the use of USSD service instead of the banks as consumers use the service not the banks.

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