08 November 2019
Nigeria has blocked a planned move by operator MTN to charge users N4 (US$0.013) per every four seconds for unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) access to banking services.
The country’s communications minister Isa Pantami told the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to suspend the proposed charge, after notification by the operator to subscribers sparked outrage on social media platforms.
“As requested by your bank, from Oct 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please contact your bank for more info,” read a message from MTN.
USSD is a real time messaging communication technology that serves for account opening, balance and other enquiries, money transfer, airtime vending, bill payment among others, with a shorter turnaround time than SMS.
When users interact with a remote application from their device, the USSD starts a predefined session to facilitate the transfer of information between the application and the user.
Since Pantami put a hold on the proposed charge until he is “fully and properly briefed”, according to a statement from his office, the directive (which will also affect other telecom firms) can still be reversed.
Nigerians who swamped the communication ministry’s Twitter pages also claimed that other operators have been deducting similar charges from their bank accounts for a number of months.