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TRAI suggests free USSD messages for all users to encourage digital payments

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Highlights:

  • TRAI proposes to remove charges on USSD based mobile banking services.
  • Free USSD messages would make digital payments more accessible.
  • The current USSD tariff ceiling in India is 50 paise per session.

Digital payment services in India have increased dramatically in recent years. There are many times when users have to use USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) messages for mobile banking, payment, or other services.

Users are generally charged with 50 paise for each session of USSD. A particular session can be completed in eight stages. However, keeping in mind the increasing use of USSD, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed to remove charges on USSD messages in the future. USSD messages are also used by telecom operators to enable feature phone users to check their balance and enable services without access to the Internet.

TRAI stated that the suggestion to make USSD messages free for all customers is based on tips of a high-level Committee on Deepening of Digital Payments (CDDP) constituted through the Reserve Bank of India to inspire virtual payments withinside the country. The draft Amendment Order has been posted on TRAI’s website, and the regulatory authority has invited stakeholders to ship in written remarks before December 8.

The USSD messages get displayed on the screen of mobile phones and are not stored like SMSes. This technology is widely used to display balance deduction in mobile phones where a message pops up on the device screen after a call or outgoing SMS.

TRAI said in the draft ‘Telecommunication Tariff Order, 2021’.

“The present tariff per USSD session for mobile banking offered by telecom service providers (TSPs) is several times higher than the average tariff for one minute of an outgoing voice call, or one outgoing SMS. The relatively high charge for USSD is thus acting as an impediment in increasing the number of transactions despite significant improvement in the success rate of transactions.”

Considering the decline in charges for other services, the rationalization of USSD charges is required to increase the number of USSD transactions. The recommendations made by the committee are supported by the Department of Financial Services (DFS).

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