Many Headaches of MultiChoice

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Dupe Atoki

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MultiChoice is fighting many battles as the Consumer Protection Council summons it over petitions from consumers accusing the company of arbitrarily increasing prices of its services while the Federal High Court in Lagos stops the news rates

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Apr. 20, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THESE are not the best of times for the management of the MultiChoice company. The company has is being kicked from all sides by the consumers who are protesting its latest increase in the prices of its product. They are also asking the company to introduce Pay-As-You-Go billing system.   Trouble started for MultiChoice when it announced on March 20 that the prices of its services will go up by 20 percent by April 1.

Shortly after, consumers went up in arms flooding the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, with petitions.  According to CPC, the continuous exploitation of Nigerian consumers by some companies operating in the country has been attributed to the absence of anti-competition law. Dupe Atoki, director general, CPC, said government was aware of the gap and was putting in place a legislation to effectively protect consumers.

Atoki, who was responding to recent complaints made by customers of MultiChoice about astronomical increase in the subscription rates of DStv bouquets, said the anti-competition law would help to address the situation where the provider of a service would act as a monopoly. “If there is any complaint that has been overwhelming for us in the council, it is the issue of DStv in the last three weeks or so. There are so many other complaints that we have received other than the increment, but the increment is what everybody seems to be anxious about.

“We have received complaints about the seeming malpractice going on in upgrading the decoder. We have invited MultiChoice; we summoned them last week to discuss the various complaints, including the request for pay-as-you-go view. But on the increment, I hasten to say that this does not fall within our mandate at the CPC. It is more of competition law and unfortunately, we don’t have that here yet.

“Competition law, at the end of the road, protects consumers as it deals mainly with the conduct of businesses and it helps to check monopoly; it helps to check cartel where people just come together to fix price, or where you have a dominant actor who uses that position to arbitrarily increase price, which is what MultiChoice is doing because there is no competition. For now, the ball is in your hands; when there is no regulated system to check anti-competition conduct, the customers are the losers at the end of the day,” she said.

Atoki expressed optimism that the federal government would within the shortest possible time approve a legislation that would transform the council into a more efficient and effective consumer protection agency.

Nontheless, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has restrained MultiChoice Nigeria Limited from implementing its new rates and increase in tariffs payable by its subscribers across board. The restraining order was given by Justice C. J. Aneke sequel to a suit filed by Osasuyi Adebayo and Oluyinka Oyeniji, two Lagos-based legal practitioners.

In the suit with number FHC/L/CS/404/2015, Aneke granted the interim orders till the hearing of the motion on notice for injunction on April 16. He also ordered that the suit and the interim injunction be published in national newspapers. Adebayo and Oyeniji are challenging the arbitrary increase in tariffs. The legal practitioners urged the court to order the second defendant, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, to also implement Pay Per View system  where subscribers choose the programmes they want and pay as they watch, which is being implemented in some other parts of the world.

In March, MultiChoice had announced a 20 percent price increase for all its satellite pay TV bouquets in Nigeria to take effect from April 1. Thus, the subscription fee of DStv’s Premium, compact plus, compact, access, family and extra view bouquets were all set to increase, as is the price for GOtv Plus and GOtv bouquet. MultiChoice explained that the price increase was necessary for it to continue offering the best in local and international entertainment to its subscribers.

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