Etisalat Drags NCC, MTN to Court

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Matthew Willsher, MD, Etisalat Nigeria

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ETISALAT Telecommunication Company has dragged the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State over claims that the MTN Nigeria has been given market advantage over it. Aanu Ogunro, counsel to Etisalat, on Tuesday, July 21, appeared before Justice Mohammed Idris with an application seeking the leave of the court for the law suit to be heard during the court’s ongoing annual vacation. He also joined MTN as a co-respondent with NCC in the suit.

Ogunro, while urging the judge to hear the suit, said it was urgent, claiming that if the decision of the NCC in favour of MTN was not reversed, it posed a threat to the business survival of Etisalat. “My lord, we have a motion ex-parte for leave to ask for the judicial review of the decision of the first respondent. The urgency in this matter is that the first respondent has made certain decisions that, if not urgently addressed, will affect the business of the applicant and it is capable of eroding the capital and the business of the applicant within a very short time,” he said.

Etisalat in the main suit is seeking a review of a decision recently taken by NCC allowing 30 percent differential between MTN’s off-net and on-net retail mobile voice tariffs. According to Etisalat, with the said 30 percent differential between its off-net and on-net retail mobile voice tariffs, MTN had been able to create what is called a ‘calling club,’ an example of which is its ‘Family and Friends’ promo.

Etisalat is contending that MTN’s ‘Family and Friends’ promo, which offers a call rate of 11 kobo per second to eight MTN subscribers and two non-MTN subscribers, is posing a threat to its business survival. It explained that the promo, which it claimed was launched in violation of NCC’s regulation, had aided MTN to leverage on its size to restrict outgoing traffic to smaller operators by pricing on-net tariffs lower so as to make off-net calls unattractive.”

Etisalat, however, claimed that this 30 percent differential in on-net and off-net retail mobile voice tariffs granted MTN by NCC was a breach of NCC’s regulation tagged the Determination of Dominance in Selected Communications Markets in Nigeria, DDSCMN. The DDSCMN, Etisalat said, was issued by NCC on April 25, 2013, following a study it conducted in 2012.

According to Etisalat, NCC had, following its 2012 study, discovered that MTN was the dominant operator in the retail mobile voice market segment of the telecommunication industry in Nigeria and that it maintained a wide differential of up to 300 percent between its on-net and off-net retail voice tariff, which was not favourable to its competitors.

Following this discovery, the plaintiff said NCC directed that MTN should not operate with any differential between its on-net and off-net tariffs because such would substantially reduce the competitive capacity of other telecommunication service providers in the country. Etisalat, however, said contrary to this earlier directive by NCC, MTN embarked on its ‘Family and Friends’ promo, which encouraged the creation of a calling club to the business detriment of the competitors.

Etisalat explained that when it realised that MTN had launched its promo, it wrote several letters, including one dated February 28, 2015, to NCC to complain but NCC refused and failed to compel MTN to immediately withdraw the aforesaid ‘Family an Friends’ tariff option. It, however, said that NCC later wrote a letter dated April 14, 2015 to the plaintiff, disclosing that it had given MTN 30 percent differential in on-net and off-net tariffs.

The judge granted the application to hear the suit during vacation and thereafter adjourned till August 3, to take the substantive application.

— Aug 3, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT

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