The inability to recharge MTN Nigeria lines with airtime and data via banks has caused confusion among SMEs and customers in Nigeria.
Banks in Nigeria have disconnected MTN from banking channels including Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and banking apps due to disagreement over earnings.
Customers of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) , First Bank and Access Bank confirmed this frustrating development to Ejes Gist TV that they have been unable to access the banks’ digital and USSD Services.
MTN has over 77.34 million subscribers in Nigeria.
However, neither the banks nor the mobile telecommunication operator had explained to their customers the reason for the development, but MTN in a message to its subscribers earlier on Friday asked them to use physical cards to recharge their phone as its bank recharge channels were unavailable.
“Dear Customer, our bank recharge channels are currently unavailable. Kindly recharge using physical cards. We apologise for the inconvenience,” the mobile network operator said.
But an account manager at GTBank blamed customers’ inability to access the bank’s digital service on downtime when our reporters inquired on the matter.
But an insider in MTN told journalists the blockage was caused by a disagreement between the company and banks on USSD code commission.
He said the network had reduced commission paid to GTBank and other lenders from an average of 3.5 percent to 2.5 percent.
Although not all the banks received a reduction, but out of the lenders that were affected only Zenith Bank chose not to block MTN.
On why the commission for the USSD code was cut by MTN, the insider said the volume of usage influenced the reduction in commission.
He added that the banks cut off the MTN subscribers without prior notice to the network or its subscribers.
The source said: “The decision wasn’t pleasing to the financial institutions as they demanded the revert to the old commission, but the telco ignored.
“Please note that MTN didn’t cut off customers and has no hand in this. This is strictly the banks acting on their own.
“We woke up this morning to see that MTN customers were cut off from USSD services overnight. This has come as a surprise as there was no formal communication from the banks to their customers prior to their taking this action.”
“The banks wrote back to the aggregators to revert back to the old commission, otherwise, they would block MTN airtime in all their channels.
“The channels were blocked midnight leaving our customers stranded. Interestingly, the bank Managing Directors met and quickly took a decision. Subscribers to telecommunications are being denied services by the banks even when they have money in their accounts.”
He said the banks took the action to protect their profit and asked the government to intervene in the dispute.
“This only has to do with the preservation of bank profits which are already substantial and growing despite the wider economic conditions
“The government needs to step in and deal with this once and for all. Nigerian banks need to stop their tyrannical posture,” the source stated.
In a recent policy change, the South African firm not only pressured SMEs the aggregate data and airtime revenues to promote only MTN platforms, but it also reduced advertising commissions.
The telecommunications behemoth outlined the reduction in discount with effect from April 1st in a letter to its partners titled NOTIFICATION OF REVISED DISCOUNT STRUCTURE, which was made available to Vanguard.
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MTN told its partners to “pacify customers and educate them to use MTNToplt, MoMo networks, as well as the debit card options on MOD or myMTN App,” despite the inconvenience to millions of Nigerians, according to a source.
The new change comes just months after it increased USSD transfer charges and a year after the Nigerian government pardoned it for $2 billion in unpaid taxes.
When an MTN user attempts to recharge his phone using one of the banks’ applications, he gets the message “Unavailale.”
“Dear customers, our bank recharge channels are currently unavailable; please recharge using physical cards,” reads an SMS sent to network users. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience. Thank you so much.”
Another, a webmaster, said Airtel’s platform kept showing up when he tried to buy data.
Stakeholders believe that MTN’s recent changes will destroy the country’s SMEs, given the company’s previous policies that make it difficult for entrepreneurs to break even.
According to one source, MTN has long tried to monopolise the telco market, and its battery product has nearly paralysed Nigeria’s nascent renewable energy sector.
“Meanwhile, even South Africans don’t seem to trust MTN; for example, MTN’s revenue increased by 12.6% in Nigeria and 22.9 percent in Ghana in 2019, but only by 0.4 percent in South Africa,” some stakeholders noted.
“The biggest victims of MTN’s aggressive abuse of Nigeria are not just SMEs who are constantly having their commissions cut before they go out of business; ordinary Nigerians bear the brunt, mostly without even understanding it.
“Nigeria has some of the world’s highest mobile data rates, more than ten times what Indians rate.
“Telcos like MTN use their massive scale to keep data prices high so that they can continue to steal money from unsuspecting people and a helpless nation, even while repatriating the money to South Africa and not paying their fair share of taxes.
“It remains to be seen if, for the first time, the Nigerian government and even major private institutions will stand up and battle this drowning of Nigerian SMEs and open-air robbery of the country,” according to a statement.
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