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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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Jeff Bezos Sets a New Record as Net Worth Hits $172bn

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Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos Breaks His Own Record, Now Worth $172bn

Jeff Bezos, the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Amazon Inc, on Wednesday broke his own record to set a new all-time record of $172 billion net worth.

Bezos’s previous record was $167.7 billion attained in September 2018. However, the billionaire broke the record on Wednesday after Amazon shares gained 4.4 percent to close at $2,878.80 per share.

Jeff Bezos companies

This is despite the billionaire parting with 19.7 million Amazon shares in July 2019 as part of his divorce settlement to his wife, Mackenzie Bezos.

Mackenzie Bezos’s 19.7 million shares now worth around $56.9 billion, making her the second richest woman and the thirteenth richest person in the world.

Jeff Bezos’s net worth has now risen by $57.4 billion from the year-to-date, according to Bloomberg Billionaire Index.

Jeff bezos Net worth

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Opay Pauses Some Business Operations as COVID-19 Bites

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Opay halts business units

OPay Halts Some Business Units Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Opay, a seamless mobile money service provider, has announced it would be putting some of its business units on hold as COVID-19 pandemic bites.

In a statement released by the Chinese owned mobile money start-up on its official twitter page @OPay_NG, the company said “We can confirm that some of our business units including the ride-hailing services, ORide, OCar as well as our logistics service OExpress will be put on pause.”

This, it said was largely due to the tough business environment brought about by COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown and government ban of motorbikes in Lagos.

The statement read “Globally, ride-sharing businesses have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. But several months ago, foreseeing this issue, OPay had already taken preemptive steps to restructure our business focus away from rides. It is worth to note that this final restructuring has minimal impact on OPay as a whole business.”

“It is important to clarify that ride-sharing had always been only one part, and not a major part of OPay’s diversified business in Nigeria. In fact, OPay had been investing more and seeing accelerated growth in its commitment to Nigeria’s financial and technology inclusion.

“During the pandemic, we have seen continued demand for our offline mobile money agency, and online digital payment, which remains the core of our business.

“From January to April 2020 for example, we witnessed a 44% growth of offline and online transaction value even in the midst of pandemic and lockdown. This is a testament to the high demand for flexible and easy financial services by Nigerians. OPay remains one of the most well-funded and profitable mobile money platforms in Nigeria, and we will continue to do more for our customers.”

Below is the company’s official statement as published on Twitter.

Opay Statement

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Facebook, Google Earn 80% of Annual Digital Ads Spend – Report

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Facebook, Google Earn 80% of the £14bn Spent on Digital Ads in 2019

A recent report from the United Kingdom’s competition watchdog has shown that Facebook and Google earned 80 percent of all the money spent by advertisers on digital platforms in 2019.

In the 440-page report, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), UK said Google and Facebook market positions are having a “profound impact” on newspapers that now receive almost 40 percent of all visits to their sites through the two platforms.

“This dependency potentially squeezes their share of digital advertising revenues, undermining their ability to produce valuable content,” the watchdog said.

This is coming two weeks after Investors King called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to protect Small and Medium businesses against Facebook and Google activities or watch the nation’s SMEs die. Investors King had posited that “Nigerian startups can not compete with Facebook and the recent tax announced by the Federal Government through the ministry of finance would not be enough to stop these giant tech companies from taking advantage of Nigeria’s young growing market.

According to the CMA report, out of the £14 billion spent on digital advertising in the United Kingdom in 2019, Google with more than 90 percent share of market search earned £7.3 billon while Facebook with more than 50 percent of display market earned £5.5 billion. Representing 80 percent of the total digital ads spent in 2019.

While the report admits that the two platforms help small businesses reach customers and are valued by users, it also said they have “developed such unassailable market positions that rivals can no longer compete on equal terms”.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive at CMA, said: “What we have found is concerning – if the market power of these firms goes unchecked, people and businesses will lose out.

“People will carry on handing over more of their personal data than necessary, a lack of competition could mean higher prices for goods and services bought online and we could all miss out on the benefits of the next innovative digital platform.

“Our clear recommendation to government is that a new pro-competitive regulatory regime be established to address the concerns we have identified and regulate a sector which is central to all our lives.”

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