By Tumininu Ojelabi Hassan
The announcement of a new price list by the Lagos Chapter of the Association of Mobile money and Bank Agents in Nigeria (AMMBAN) has caused an uproar as people perceive the increase on transaction charges to be unjustified and uncalled for.
Based on observation by our correspondent, majority of POS agents are yet to comply with the new price list and as a matter of fact, most of these POS agents claimed they were not aware of the new price list as they haven’t received any information in respect to this by their POS companies. Also, they claimed they didn’t know an association for mobile money agents and bank agents existed as they have never been invited to any meeting by the association.
According to Yeoman, a POS merchant, who shared his thoughts on the new price list with our correspondent, the increase on transaction charges was a good move as the high cost of running the business was making it less profitable. However, he said despite collecting the previous charges, customers are complaining.
“We are collecting normal charges, despite that, customers are complaining. We charge N100 on N5000 withdrawal, N300 on N10,000 withdrawal. Before the naira scarcity, Palmpay the company I got my POS machine from was charging N10 on each transfer but during the naira scarcity they had a meeting with we the active agents in their office.
“Two weeks after the meeting, the charge was increased to N20. They charge N80 on every N10,000 card transaction and N100 on every N20,000 transaction. Meanwhile they aren’t paying us. No POS agent receives salary, we survive based on what we charge customers. I have explained this to customers severally, but some of them usually say they charge them lower at other places.
“I wonder why some people charge lower but what I deduced is that a lot of people start a business not because they can run it successfully but because others are doing it without proper understanding of the business. When people complain about the charges, I try to explain to them. The company will deduct their charges, the pack of the paper we use was N800, it’s now N2000 and we use more than two packs in a week.
“We also pay for data subscription, banks also deduct charges when we withdraw at the ATM because we can’t withdraw cash over the counter during the weekend. The only option is to use the ATM. If you aren’t patient, you can’t run this business. I will be happy if the new price list can be implemented.
“Although, I haven’t heard of the association and I don’t belong to any association. Palmpay notifies me of every information via email, also we have a WhatsApp group chat where they share every information with agents, but they haven’t sent a message concerning the price increase,” he explained.
In addition, he spoke about the price discrepancies in the industry due to the high level of competition amongst different stakeholders in the industry.
“Opay charges are different from that of Palmpay, Moniepoint etc. We don’t have a regulated price list in the industry. That’s why one POS agent can charge you N200 for a transaction and another one can charge N100 for that same transaction because they use different companies. Before, I was doing N400 on N10,000 withdrawal but I had to reduce it to N300 because of many complaints from customers. Since the naira scarcity subsided, the sales has been very low. A lot of people are complaining,” he added.
Dayo, another POS agent, interacted with our correspondent regarding the new price list.
“I charge N100 on N5000 and N200 on N10,000 withdrawal, but customers have been complaining about the normal charges. Also, we have to put the cost of operations into consideration. We buy data, we buy paper, transportation money when we go to the bank to withdraw cash is also included. To me, the increase on charges makes sense. However, I haven’t heard about the association but once the new price list is implemented, I will definitely get an email from Palmpay and I will adhere to their rules and regulations”, he said.
Kenny Olashile, a Firstmonie agent expressed his view concerning the price hike, stating that it won’t make so much impact because this decision would make them lose customers.
“I charge N400 on N10,000 withdrawal and the reason is because the money I get from the bank is usually not enough due to the withdrawal limits. So what I do is collect money from my other agents and I pay them for collecting money. The cost of running this business is high, paper is expensive now, we buy data.
“For me, I don’t think increasing the charges will change anything, the bone of contention is, will people be able to afford these charges? People won’t pay. We don’t have access to cash like before, the withdrawal limit and high cost of managing the business are contributing to the high charges.
“The bank charges N35 on every 10,000 ATM withdrawal. I heard about the new price list but why we aren’t complying is because customers won’t pay, although it’s a 50/50 chance, some people can afford it while some people can’t afford it. The issue is, when a customer goes to a POS agent and he charges N200 on N5000 and the customer goes to another place, the POS agent charges N100 on N5000, definitely he will never go back to the person who charged N200 on N5000.
“That’s why people aren’t complying. Another factor is that, people are venturing into this business, probably because they think it’s profitable, the new ones are spoiling the business for us. They reduce their charges to attract customers. If you look around, you will see a lot of POS shops and two years ago, I was the only POS agent here. Honestly, I don’t think the association will help because if there is an association and people aren’t sticking to their rules and regulations, what is the essence of the association”?
Our correspondent also interacted with customers to know their opinions concerning the new price list by AMMBAN.
Kamor Kayode, a business consultant shared his concerns:
“I don’t think it makes sense to increase POS charges now. The naira scarcity has eased off, people aren’t desperate to withdraw cash like before. I will rather go to the ATM to withdraw or withdraw over the counter than pay high charges to a POS agent. Even the POS agents aren’t complying because they know it’s impossible to charge that high, I withdrew N10,000 yesterday and the POS agent collected N200 for the transaction,” he stated.
Juliana Umezeoke, a Lagos resident claimed she wasn’t aware of a new price list as POS operators still charge based on the old price list for transactions.
“I am not aware of the price increment. I withdrew N12,000 two days ago and the POS agents collected N400 from me. If truly the association is serious about the new price list, I don’t think it can fly because people won’t patronise them anymore. It’s better they think about this decision,” she advised.
The AMMBAN disclosed that the increase in POS transaction charges was to tackle price discrepancies in the industry and also to ensure that POS operators remain in business amidst the excessively high cost of operations. However, the price hike has attracted reactions from the the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has barred POS operators in Nigeria from implementing the recently announced increase in charges for POS transactions.
The FCCPC in a statement released on Wednesday and signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, said the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) does not allow any trade group to fix price in a way that will limit or prevent competition and distort the market. The commission has warned the association not to implement the announced prices. While noting that the FCCPA frowns at price fixing by any trade group in Nigeria, Irukera said any attempt to go ahead would be met with penalties as spelt out in the FCCPA.
“The Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Act (2018) (FCCPA) recognizes, indeed encourages the prerogative of businesses to organise, and as trade associations for acceptable purposes, such as ensuring and enforcing applicable standards and best practices, as well as a measure of self-regulation within the profession or trade.
“An aspiration by members of a profession or businesses in a trade association to prevent fraud, excessive or unjust prices is laudable; however, fixing prices is not an acceptable or even proven way to accomplish these goals. On the contrary, fixing prices distorts the market, prevents innovation and efficiency and does not redound to the benefit of consumers or other businesses except the participants of such illegal conspiracies or conduct.
“The FCCPA provides stiff penalties for cartels or any similar coordinated or collusive conduct among competitors, even at association levels; and the Commission will seek to enforce the law to its fullest extent possible where there is sufficient evidence that a business has, or is participating in any such prohibited conduct or arrangement either directly, or indirectly.
“To the extent that any combination of undertakings, including AMMBAN indeed, met, agreed or decided to impose uniform or coordinated fees/tariffs for services, this announcement should serve to ensure such undertakings cease and desist from that arrangement or similar discussions/ conduct.
“The Commission is also opening an investigation to ensure the purported statement by AMMBAN is not truly representative or erroneous. Where evidence demonstrates that the statement is factually accurate, the Commission will take appropriate regulatory steps to address the conduct accordingly.” the commission stated.
The Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Isa AbdulMumin, revealed that CBN was aware of the decision by AMMBAN to increase transaction charges and assured that CBN will intervene to resolve the issue as regards the new price list of mobile money and bank agents.
In response to the reactions, in a statement signed by its National Public Relations Officer, Oluwasegun Elegbede, the association attributed its actions to the current economic realities in the country with the aim to ensure that agents can continue to stay in business.
“It is essential to remember that our services are not subsidized by the CBN or any of the operators. The burden of the current economic reality lies squarely on the shoulders of each and every agent. Today, the average agent faces numerous challenges, including surging inflation, overhead costs (such as source of funding, rent, staff salaries, POS paper costs, data subscriptions, security, multiple taxation/levies), and various risks such as loss of funds through licensed operators’ channels, fraud. and robbery,” the statement clarified.