USSD Debt Dispute: Telcos consider court action and service withdrawal

USSD Debt Dispute: Telcos consider court action and service withdrawal
USSD Debt Dispute: Telcos consider court action and service withdrawal

Telecommunication companies have issued stern warnings that they may withdraw their Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services if banks fail to clear the N120 billion debt owed to them.

This looming threat stems from the prolonged delay in resolving the issue, and the telcos have indicated that court intervention may be necessary since the banks appear unwilling to settle the debt.

Gbenga Adebayo, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, expressed these concerns during a conversation with reporters.

Telcos and banks’ USSD dispute persists

This new ultimatum arises despite a recent agreement between the telecom companies and banks to resolve the long-standing USSD issue that has persisted for nearly four years.

Adebayo remarked, “I believe it is best to withdraw the services. If parties must go to court to obtain a final resolution on this USSD debt issue, then so be it.

This is because every attempt made by all parties has been a case of taking one step forward and several steps backward, and it isn’t producing any results. This is a commercial agreement that went awry.

The agreement provides for third-party intervention, whether through arbitration or resorting to the court of law, and if it takes its natural course, the parties will determine the appropriate course of action.

Rather than attending meetings in Abuja with the minister or the CBN, the parties will determine their actions in accordance with the agreement.”

Adebayo emphasized that this matter is of a commercial nature, and therefore, it is fitting to consider withdrawing the service.

However, he also noted that political interference has prevented telecom companies from enforcing the agreed commercial terms.

He said, “When you introduce political interference into commercial agreements, you end up with these types of problems.

That is why we strongly maintain that certain issues, including price reviews, should be left to market forces and not determined by the government because it is not sustainable.”

He revealed that during a recent meeting with the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani, the minister was sympathetic to the challenges faced by telecom companies and emphasized that if parties had acted responsibly, the matter wouldn’t have escalated to this point.

A document shared with news reporters previously disclosed that the minister had suggested to the banks that they should not anticipate free services, as there are costs associated with every service provided.

The former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, has indicated that the USSD debt issue is hindering financial inclusion in the country.

Recently, Adebayo confirmed to news reporters that the USSD debt issue remains unresolved, with discussions ongoing between banks and telecom companies regarding a repayment plan.