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USSD Charges: ‘Banks Are Biggest Beneficiaries’, Telcos Insist

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  • USSD Charges: ‘Banks Are Biggest Beneficiaries’, Telcos Insist

Telecommunication companies have reacted to the Bank CEO’s statement on alleged double-billing for financial transactions through the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) channel.

The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operator of Nigeria (ALTON) said the banks are the biggest beneficiaries of the USSD charges.

MTN Nigeria had recently sent a message to subscribers that it will start charging them for USSD access to banking services.

“Yello, please note that from October 21, we will charge N4 per 20 seconds for the USSD access to banking services. Thank you,” the message reads.

However, Body of Bank CEOs on Monday denied having any knowledge of the direct USSD access charge to customers.

“Our attention has been drawn to SMS sent on Saturday, October 19, by MTN Nigeria Communications PLC (“MTN”) to customers of banks in Nigeria in respect of the above.

“That the banks did not ask MTN to start charging customers as contained in the text message. The decision on whether, and what amount, to charge a customer for accessing USSD is entire that of the telco company, in the same way, a customer is billed for calls, SMS, and data.

“MTN is the only Telco that is yet to implement end-user billing which is the standard practice for customer-initiated transactions. This is despite the fact that the banks, working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), have engaged MTN over a period of more than one year to try and bring down the cost of USSD to aid financial inclusion.

“That the banks are determined to pursue the National Financial Inclusion Strategy of the Federal Government of Nigeria and will continue to advocate that Telcos identify wholeheartedly with this laudable initiative and implement transparent and low pricing model in the use of USSD access codes.

Reacting on Tuesday, the telcos in a letter signed by the Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo said the “fact that the biggest beneficiaries in the USSD value chain are the banks and that the allegation of destroying the financial inclusion strides by our members are unfounded.

“It will be impossible to connect Automated Teller Machines and Point of Sale terminals across the length and breadth of Nigeria without our members’ dedication and support.

“In addition, the cashless policy drive and the instant payment solution of the financial sector would not have been possible without our members’ support.”

Meanwhile, the  Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission to suspend the USSD plan by MTN.

Some telcos had reportedly initiated end-user billing for the USSD transactions due to the suspension of corporate billing by the banks.

ALTON described the end-user billing as an indirect methodology by banks in charging the USSD access fees.

“Why will the banks charge customers and not share the cost with the operators and you don’t expect the operators to charge customers? Banks continue to take the money without giving anything to the operators.”

“Given that the USSD channel has become an established and most preferred channel for the banks especially for the banked population, we state that asking the customer to pay for the USSD is akin to requesting a customer to pay a bank’s landlord access fees prior to gaining access to banking premises.”

The Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele also said: “I opposed it and I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen; the banks gave this business to the telecoms companies, and I leave the banks and the telecom companies to engage.”

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Short-Form Video Platform TikTok Improves Private Messaging Feature

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Short-form video hosting platform TikTok has improved its private messaging feature by expanding the direct message settings, giving users the option to choose who they want to receive messages from.

The company which sent an email to users updating them on the feature disclosed that the current messaging update contains options such as suggested friends, mutual followers, and people you have sent messages to.

Through settings, users can access the DM options, and also filter out suspicious spam messages. To change their direct messaging settings, all they need to do is to tap the profile icon at the bottom of the Tiktok home screen.

Next, they will tap on the menu button at the top and select “settings and privacy”, and then tap “privacy”. From there they will need to select direct messages and then they would be able to choose who they would like to allow to send them DM.

This feature could make TikTok a messaging app, enabling users to DM their favorite content creators. The feature is currently on other social platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat which enables users to choose who they want to receive messages.

Investors King understands that TikTok’s latest messaging feature can be seen as a move towards competing with other social media platforms that have enabled such feature.

The short-form video platform has continued to improve its platform with the latest user-friendly features as it continues to heighten competition in the social media space. Last year, it introduced a “new friends tab” that replaced the “discover tab”, which the app disclosed that it was looking for a new way to recommend content based on users’ friendships.

After its launch in 2016, reports disclose that TikTok awareness has grown exponentially. Its popularity skyrocketed with a 61% increase in mentions year over year (YOY) during the first half of 2021.

According to report, TikTok has the power to help brands connect with their target market especially when they engage them. Being the first non-facebook app to reach 3 million global downloads, TikTok is poised to continue its dominance in the social media space.

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After Over Two Years, Meta Promises to Lift Suspension on Donald Trump’s Facebook, Instagram Accounts

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As the political atmosphere gathers momentum in the United States of America ahead of its Presidential election next year, stakeholders have started paving way for possible contenders to marshal their manifestos and seek the electorate’s support.

A former President of the United States, Donald Trump, while addressing a crowd of supporters in Texas, late last year, had hinted of his desire to contest the presidency in 2024.

Meanwhile, of these key stakeholders are owners of Information, Communication, Technology including the social media platforms. Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) belongs to this category.

Meta, an American multinational technology conglomerate, promised to will restore Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts soon.

Trump’s accounts, with about 57 million followers, had been suspended after a riot broke out in Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.

The social media handles, after the suspension would have been lifted on them, would afford the former president of opportunities of interacting with his political supporters online in line with his aspiration to oust the incumbent President Joe Biden.

While his Facebook account has 34 million followers, his Instagram has 23 million.

Investors King had reported that Trump’s Twitter account had been suspended following alleged misinformation and incitement of violence.

But, after Elon Musk took over Twitter in November, 2022, he reinstated Trump’s account.

Ahead of the poll, advocates of free speech have said it would be good if political candidates are allowed to reach out to the public on social media.

Meanwhile, critics have accused Meta of relaxing its policies to accommodate posting of contents that are inappropriate to standard. But, the technology conglomerate said it has made some barriers that would prevent misinformation.

Explaining how it would tackle Trump posts henceforth, Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, had said that any violating content of the politician would be removed and that Trump risks between one month and two years suspension depending on how serious the offence is.

Nonetheless, the decision to reinstate Trump’s accounts has been generating condemnation as civil rights groups accused Meta of parading weak policies that allow disparaging content on their platforms.

Some of these advocates described the former president as danger that should be tamed.

Some of the groups,l including Free Press, Anti-Defamation League and NAACP, among others said they are worried that Facebook may not be able to checkmate possible future attacks by Trump on democratic process.

But, Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and a former ACLU official, said the restoration of Trump’s accounts is justified.

Jaffer said the reinstatement would allow members of the public, the opportunity of hearing directly from candidates gunning for political offices in the forthcoming presidential election.

 

 

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Macroeconomic Factors Affect Consumer Spending as Mastercard Shares Slip

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As the decline in macroeconomic factors persists globally, consumer spending via payment giant Mastercard has continued to decline along with the company’s shares.

The company shares slipped 1.1% to $378.35 yesterday morning in New York trading after it warned revenue growth would slow faster than expected in the first quarter (Q1), noting that the high cost of inflation has impacted consumer spending.

It further disclosed that spending on its cards increased by 11% to $1.73 trillion in the fourth quarter, missing the $1.77 trillion average estimated by analysts.

Net revenue for the fourth quarter (Q4) jumped  12% to $5.82 billion, in line with the $5.8 billion average analyst estimate. The company reported earnings of $2.53 billion for the final quarter of the year, at a share price of $2.62.

MasterCard expressed concern that its revenue for the first quarter (Q1) would climb by a percentage in the high end of the high single digits, meanwhile analysts predict it would increase by 10%.

Speaking about the impact of the Macroeconomic factors on its card usage, Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach said in a statement, “While Macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty persists, consumer spending has been remarkably resilient. We are well prepared to adjust our investment profile quickly if needed”.

“Meanwhile if we look at the broader economy, we see a continued recovery of cross-border travel, with volumes up 59% versus a year ago and were encouraged by Asia opening up further”.

Investors King understands that Mastercard and its rival Visa Inc. have disclosed that so far, the surging inflation hasn’t affected consumers’ overall spending patterns, instead card customers have shifted their spending to lower-cost items or generic brands.

Meanwhile, consumer spending is proving to be resilient in the face of surging inflation in the U.S., but spending on goods, led by food and beverages, gasoline and motor vehicles, declined in the third quarter of last year.

According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment, U.S. retail spending excluding automotive increased +11.2% year-over-year during the holiday season last year, running from November 1 through December 24.

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