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Cameroon – Mobile Money war: Express Union accuses MTN and Orange of unfair competition, and sues them.

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Written by Deckson N.

The microfinance firm points fingers at the same time, for abusively suspending the *050# USSD code and overcharging its access cost. MTN says it does not have a contract with Express Union.

It is a real war that is announced in the activity of electronic transfer of money in Cameroon. Express Union Finance S.A accuses the mobile phone companies MTN and Orange of anti-competitive practices.

According to the explanations of Daily l’Economie of 12 July 2017, from 2014 Express Union got from the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (TRA), the *050# USSD portal via its provider of value-added services LMT. It is this code that allows any user of Express Union Mobile Money services to access the network for all mobile operators against payment of the costs of an SMS.

But since 2016, the two operators MTN and Orange are accused of multiplying the techniques to prevent the customers of Express Union Mobile Money to make their transfer operations. Hence the numerous complaints to the competent authorities of the field, in particular the TRA and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, and in court where the case is still pending.

The newspaper recalls that everything starts on June 7, 2016, when MTN Cameroon suspends the *050# menu, notably its “1 transfert” option to not allow Express Union Mobile customers to use its network to transfer money, Express Union said. Following a complaint to the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency, MTN Cameroon was directed by the regulator on October 18, 2016 to reinstate the “1 transfer” option of the *050# USSD code.

Because of the non-execution by MTN Cameroon of this injunction, Express Union is suing them. On 24 January 2017, the Court of First Instance of Yaoundé-Administrative Center ordered the reinstatement in its entirety of the *050# portal USSD under penalty of 500 000 FCFA per day of delay. A decision to which MTN Cameroon appealed.

But, according to an internal source to MTN, no contract binds MTN Cameroon to Express Union about the  *050# USSD code. MTN said it was surprised to be attacked by the microfinance institution.

The *050# USSD code in question is owned by LMT, a value-added service provider with whom MTN had a pilot contract to deliver services to customers through the code. Orange Cameroon has since June 21, 2017 increased by more than 600% of the cost of access to the *050# USSD portal, going from 20 FCFA to 153 FCFA. The access fees to this portal have always been 20 FCFA, corresponding to the cost of an SMS, specifies the newspaper.

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Deckson N.