Demonetization: Vodafone, Airtel, and Idea Waive off USSD-based Mobile Banking Charges

Following demonetization, telecom service providers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have waived off mobile banking fee or USSD charge until December 31, 2016.

Taking a step towards softening the blow of demonetization and promoting cashless transactions, major telecom service providers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have waived off mobile banking fee or USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) charge for consumers till December 31, 2016.

Vodafone, Airtel, and Idea Waive off USSD-based Mobile Banking Charges

This is good news indeed for people who use their phones for various transaction activities.

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As such, telecom minister, Manoj Sinha using his Twitter handle stated that presently a charge was being levied by telecom operators for mobile banking commonly known as USSD charge. He goes on to say that in order to facilitate the use of electronic banking facility and reduce difficulty to the common man, telecom operators have now decided to waive off charges for mobile banking services till December 31, 2016.

He further added that this move, in particular, will help people with feature phones to access electronic banking facility without incurring any additional cost.

Vodafone, Airtel, and Idea Waive off USSD-based Mobile Banking Charges

Currently, service operators charge customers for providing mobile banking or m-Banking services for sending text messages from their devices seeking information.
Essentially, the Indian telecom regulator TRAI has also reduced tariffs for USSD based mobile banking transactions to a third of existing rates. It has been reduced from Rs 1.50 per session to Rs 0.50 per session.

While seeking to promote digital financial inclusion and cashless payments, as part of its quality of service regulation, TRAI has also increased the number of stages from five to eight per USSD sessions. The USSD route is usually used by people with feature phones.

Vodafone, Airtel, and Idea Waive off USSD-based Mobile Banking Charges

Commenting on the waiving off charges, Mr Sunil Sood, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone India, expressed that the company was committed to helping actualize the Government's several initiatives designed to make India a digital economy.

Likewise, to ease the burden of masses, the company will waive off all USSD charges presently levied for mobile banking till 31 December 2016.

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He also mentioned that as several million customers use feature phones, Vodafone India was hopeful that this free access to mobile banking would encourage them to adopt it as their preferred and convenient mode for banking.

Similarly, an Airtel representative responded by saying that the company has also waived off transaction charges for all USSD based mobile banking transactions over its network till December 31, 2016, while supporting customers during the ongoing demonetization exercise.

The Gurgaon-based telco also said that it would encourage customers to leverage this benefit for their convenience.

Vodafone, Airtel, and Idea Waive off USSD-based Mobile Banking Charges

However, the move will affect customers with feature phones more than smartphone users. The smartphone users have access to applications using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to help them with banking online. In essence, UPI facilitates several banking features for customers.

The USSD service allows customers to access banking services through a short code *99# irrespective of mobile carrier. The subscribers have to enter the first four digits of the IFSC code of the bank to access the USSD-based services.

Using the USSD channel, mobile banking customers can check their mobile balance, make peer-to-peer money transfers and deposit and withdraw money.

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