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MTN, banks talks over USSD deadlocked

MTN, banks talks over USSD deadlocked


Talks between MTN Nigeria and its banking partners on how to resolve the dispute over commission for airtime vending on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) yesterday failed to achieve amicable settlement.  MTN insisted that the streamlining it undertook aligned with global standard and best practice as scale is built along distribution channels.

The parties continued their scheduled meeting yesterday but the grey areas were yet to be fully resolved even as the telecom operators apologised to its customers over the restriction suffered during the Easter holidays.

A letter signed by MTN’s Chief Executive Officer, Karl Toriola and addressed to the Chairman of Body of Banks CEOs, Herbert Wigwe, who doubles as Access Bank’s CEO, showed that the meeting started on Tuesday. It was inconclusive and slated for yesterday.

“In an attempt to resolve the current USSD recharge impasse, given the intervention of our regulators, we hereby agree that the banks revert to the status quo of 4.5 per cent commission. However, the banks and MTN Communications Nigeria Plc shall sit to agree on various options that will result in the reduction in the costs on  April 6, 2021,’’ Toriola had said.

In an update on banking channel partners’ dispute and expansion of channel network issued, MTN said following the temporary suspension of sales of MTN products through its banking channel partners on April 2, 2021, services were restored on Sunday, April 4, 2021 with customers able to access all services.

It said this was agreed on the basis that MTN would revert to its previous cost of sales structures with banking partners, until a new long-term agreement can be reached on a sustainable pricing structure going forward.

“Consequent on the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigeria Communication Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria, since April 6, 2021, MTN has been participating in a series of meetings to align on longer term pricing structures. We will provide a further market update once these discussions have been concluded.

“The streamlining MTN undertook is international standard and best practice as scale is built along distribution channels. We are confident that partners in the banking sector will work with us to ensure this process concludes as quickly as possible to the benefit of the entire industry.

“MTN would like to thank our customers for their patience, and express our regret at the inconvenience imposed on them while banking channels were offline. In order to further expand the range of channels available to customers, MTN has activated a number of new channel partnerships with fintech partners and these will remain in place, significantly expanding the channels available to our customers and increasing our sales and distribution network,” the statement read in part.

Industry sources say MTN is not yet done with its mission to reduce the commission having connected with fintech platforms which offered same services to its customers.

The new channel partners the telco connected to include Sparkle, Konga Pay, Barter By Flutter Wave, Jumia Pay, OPay, Kuda, Carbon, BillsnPay, MTN On Demand, MTN Xtratime airtime loans (*606#), myMTN Web http://mymtn.com.ng and Momo agent *223#.

“We would also like to thank the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigeria Communication Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria for their rapid intervention and we look forward to a mutually acceptable solution that empowers all ecosystem participants,” concluded the statement.

The parties had a spat following MTN’s reduction of airtime vending commission via USSD from 4.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent which led the banks to restrict customers’ bank accounts on the platform. The old commission was restored two days later following MTN’s revert to the status quo of 2.5 per cent.

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