Multichoice says Nigerian Tribunal “breached its right” with free subscription order

Multichoice says Nigerian Tribunal “breached its right” with free subscription order

The legal team of Prominent Pay-TV operator, Multichoice Nigeria has said that the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal “breached their right to fair hearing” by imposing a N150 million fine on it following its preliminary objection challenging its jurisdiction among other reliefs. 

Multichoice’s lawyer, Moyosore .J. Onibanjo (SAN) disclosed this to Nairametrics in an exclusive interview on Friday, adding he will appeal the verdict immediately. 

His reaction followed the verdict delivered by a three-man panel of the tribunal led by Thomas Okosu which also ordered Multichoice to give Nigerians a one-month free subscription on DSTV and GOTV for floating its interim orders restraining DSTV, GOTV price hike. 

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 Barrister Festus Onifade. 

What transpired at the tribunal  

Onifade, who sued Multi-Choice Nigeria Ltd, and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission  

(FCCPC), accused Pay TV of unjustly increasing subscription fees without one-month notice to customers and leveraged on it to seek interim orders against 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, restraining the pay TV from going ahead with the impending price increase scheduled to take effect from 1st May 2024 pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice. 

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

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 8-days notice issued by Multichoice Nigeria  is insufficient in law. A monthly subscriber should be given at least a month. 

“Dismiss this application (by Multichoice )for being a waste of time of the court,” Onifade prayed. 

 

How the judge ruled 

On Friday, the three-man panel chaired by Justice Thomas Okosu held that Section 39(2) of the FCCPC Act states that the tribunal shall have jurisdiction throughout the federation and on all commercial activities aimed at making profit. 

“The jurisdiction of this tribunal extends to all business activities within Nigeria,” Okosu said. 

He said he looked at relevant provisions cited by parties and did not find where an aggrieved consumer who seeks to enforce his rights is required to file a complaint to the President of Nigeria or the Price Control Board. 

The judge also observed that the claimant wrote letters to the FCCPC before filing his case. 

“I have come to the conclusion that this tribunal has the jurisdiction to preside over consumer rights as in the instant case and I resolve this issue against Multichoice,” the judge said. 

Besides, the tribunal held that the claimant’s instant suit is not questioning Multichoice price hike as claimed by Onibanjo but the illegality of his client’s8-days notice to the customers. 

The Tribunal noted that Multichoice has already disobeyed its interim orders, adding that its action of hiking DSTV and GOTV prices is condemnable and must not be condoned by the Tribunal. 

The tribunal dismissed Multichoice’s preliminary objection for disobeying its interim orders. 

Subsequently, the Tribunal imposed an administrative penalty on Multichoice for failing to comply with an order of the tribunal  

“The first defendant is hereby mandated to pay N150 million penalty. 

“Multichoice is hereby ordered to give Nigerians one month free subscription.” 

Multichoice reacts 

Speaking to Nairametrics after the court’s ruling, Onibanjo said the verdict will be appealed. 

According to him, the tribunal did not accord him a fair hearing regarding his client’s price hike. 

“The Tribunal’s Orders shall be appealed immediately.  

“The matter was adjourned to 7th June 2024 for ruling on our application challenging jurisdiction however surprisingly rather than just ruling on its jurisdiction the Tribunal went ahead to pronounce us guilty of disobedience of its orders and issued severe sanctions against us all without hearing us on the matter in breach of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to a fair hearing,” the Senior lawyer told Nairametrics. 

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. 

But amid the subsisting ruling, the popular Pay TV provider proceeded with the upward adjustment of its prices for DStv and GOtv subscribers. 

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). 

 


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