Multichoice Nigeria: FCCPC refuses to challenge DSTV, GOTV price hikes at tribunal

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The legal team of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has declined to oppose the preliminary objection of a Pay-TV operator, Multichoice Nigeria, which challenged the jurisdiction of a court sitting in Abuja that recently restrained it from increasing the prices of its DStv and GOtv packages.

Counsel for the FCCPC, Nikiomari Abeke, told the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT) on Thursday that he was not opposing the application of Multichoice Nigeria.

Nairametrics previously reported that the tribunal had restrained MultiChoice from increasing its subscription rates pending the hearing and determination of a motion on notice filed by Festus Onifade through his lawyer, Ejiro Awaritoma.

Onifade, who sued Multichoice Nigeria Ltd, had accused the former of unjustly increasing subscription fees without one month’s notice to customers, seeking interim orders against the Pay TV.

A three-member tribunal, chaired by Saratu Shafii, had ruled in favor of Onifade by restraining Multichoice in the interim, in the suit marked CCPT/OP/2/2024.

The court  held that “the 1st Defendant(Multichoice) is hereby restrained, whether by themselves, her privies, assigns by whatsoever name called, from going ahead with impending price increase schedule to take effect from 1st May 2024 pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice already filed before this Honourable Tribunal.”

Processes

But Multichoice’s lawyer, M.J. Onibanjo (SAN), filed a preliminary objection urging the court to decline jurisdiction on the suit filed by Festus Onifade because such price dispute case had been decided before in favor of his client.

Onifade also asked the tribunal to direct Multichoice Nigeria Limited to pay the sum of N1 billion  or any amount the tribunal deemed fit in this circumstance for “deliberately disobeying, contravening, and failure to comply with the Interim Order of this Honourable Tribunal granted on the 29th April, 2024.”

What transpired at the tribunal

At the resumed sitting, Onibanjo tendered and adopted the previous judgment of the tribunal in suit no CCPT/OP/1/2022(Exhibit A), alongside his application, saying when a court had determined an issue between the same parties on the same subject matter before, that matter cannot be re-litigated again by any tribunal or court.

“This tribunal cannot sit on appeal on its decision. This tribunal is bound by its own decision in Exhibit A; that it is not the forum where the claimant can come to seek to regulate the prices and services offered by Multichoice,” Onibanjo said, urging the tribunal to strike out the suit.

On his part, Onifade argued that the issue he placed before the court is whether Multichoice Nigeria gave adequate notice in respect of the May 1, 2024 price TV subscription increase, and not price regulation or increase.

“It is our submission that the eight-day notice issued by Multichoice Nigeria is insufficient in law. A monthly subscriber should be given at least a month.

The FCCP counsel, Abeke, said his client “is not in opposition of the first defendant(Multichoice) and to that extent, no process and no counter was filed to the motion of the first defendant.”

After hearing from the parties, the three-man panel chaired by Justice Thomas Okosu adjourned the suit to June  7 for ruling.

More insights

Multichoice announced new price adjustments on DStv and GOtv packages on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.

The email message to subscribers read, “On Wednesday, 1 May 2024 we will adjust our prices across all our packages on OStv and GOtv. We understand the impact this change may have on you – our valued customer, but the rise in the cost of business operations, has led us to make this difficult decision. It remains our mission to provide the best entertainment and viewing experience to you and are committed to continue to deliver high-quality content and unparalleled service.”

  • Nairametrics previously reported that the development had resulted in a 25% to 26% increase across Multichoice packages.
  • On the part of the commission, it said it would review the reasons identified by Multichoice, noting that the agency could involve regulatory bodies such as the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in the process.

 


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