Navigating Opay Charges: Are Merchants Benefitting or Burdening Students?

By Ayeye Toluwalope

According to investopedia, financial technology (fintech) describes new technology that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services.  They help businesses and individuals easily access and manage their finances and make financial decisions and transactions online, or digitally. Various fintech projects have taken Nigeria’s finance industry by storm, offering multiple features to attract more users.

Opay, a Chinese-owned microfinance bank, is one of these fintech companies that has tried to make banking easier for Nigerians through the different innovative features of the app. Of these features are three free transfers daily to non-Opay account holders, an unlimited number of free transfers to Opay account users, and a cashback feature that gives a percentage of money back when the Opay account is used to pay bills or recharge airtime and data.

These features, amongst many others, have successfully attracted many users to the app. This is an attempt to enjoy quick, free, and seamless banking that the traditional commercial banks often fail to give. For example, at the University of Ibadan, both students and merchants alike have turned to using the FinTech app, especially since the occurrence of cash shortage early this year. The shortage of cash forced buyers, sellers and service providers to switch to online banking and since the average bank would charge its users a token to transfer money and also receive payment, many people turned to microfinance banks like Opay as it meant free daily transactions.

The essence of turning to this fintech, however, seems to be defeated as, over the months, merchants in the University of Ibadan have begun to add charges to the cost of products to be transferred by purchasers. For instance, this correspondent had negotiated with a keke driver within the university’s premises to take her from her hostel to the faculty. She explained that she had no cash and could only transfer to the driver. He only agreed to this if she would add an extra charge of 50 naira to the money she was going to pay.

Many other students have similar tales of having to pay more than they should because merchants have insisted on buyers adding a token as they make their transfers. This sometimes makes it appear as though these merchants are trying to cheat their customers as while it is understandable for merchants who are holders of accounts in banks like Stanbic IBTC, Union, etc., to add charges, it feels wrong to some that merchants with opay accounts ask for charges

Why Do Merchants Still Charge For The Supposedly Free Transactions?

The Opay app has two types of accounts for its users. While there is the standard account, there is also the merchant account for business owners. Many business owners, including those in the University of Ibadan, upgrade their account to the merchant account as it benefits them in some way. However, where there are advantages, there also lie disadvantages. The merchant account, amid all its benefits, still charges a token for every payment made into the account, so it is quite understandable why these sellers, in turn, ask for a token from whoever decides to make a transfer to them.

Pelumi, a student merchant, recently noticed that depending on the amount being sent to him, he is often charged between 10 and 20 Naira. He had this to say about the charges on his merchant account,

“Yeah, I noticed that around last month. When a lady sent me money, I noticed it wasn’t exactly the same amount she sent, it was reduced by a fee around 20 to 10 naira. It has occurred some other times as well. I’ve been an Opay merchant since 2020 actually but just noticed that this year.

It’s around 9 to 10 naira to be exact the last time. I think it depends on the amount the person sends to me that will determine the fee.”

Mrs. Mabel, popularly known as Aunty D amongst her customers, explains that for her, because per transaction she doesn’t receive so much, she is charged #10, and that is exactly the amount she charges the people who wish to make transfers.

Like Aunty D, many merchants only charge the exact price they are charged. And some, like the vendor in Indy Hall’s block A basement, are nice enough not to charge at all. However,  there are also people like the keke driver who overcharge, which is where the apprehension of cheating buyers becomes valid. Some of the sellers who charge as high as 50 naira for every opay transaction do not necessarily have an excuse as to why they do that. Although the keke driver explained that he was being charged for every money that entered into his account, he refused to make a comment when the correspondent asked him how much he was charged. While there are no policies in the school that move to stop sellers like this, many students have just stopped patronizing them.  

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