Court stops Multichoice from hiking subscription fees

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A Federal High Court in Abuja have restrained Multichoice Nigeria
Limited from going ahead with its recent decision to increase the
subscription tariffs for DSTV, its satellite cable television service
providers.
The restraining order was issued in respect of Suit No
FHC/ABJ/CS/894/18 brought before the court by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) in the light of the strong public interest raised in the application.
Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of
Justice, had granted the authority for the Council to initiate the
suit under Section 10 and 16 of the Consumer Protection Council Act,
Cap c25, LFN 2004.
In his order, the judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, said the interim injunction
restrains Multichoice Nigeria or its agents and representatives from
continuing the implementation of any increase in subscription rates or
price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on the
consumers pending the determination of the motion on notice.
Besides, the court also restrained DSTV from further carrying on or
continuing any conduct or activity which interferes with or has effect
of circumventing the outcome of ongoing investigations by the CPC into the company’s compliance or non-compliance with the February 16, 2016 order pending the determination of the motion on notice.
In July, MultiChoice Nigeria announced new monthly subscription rates for the DSTV Premium package from N14,700 to N15,800 (about 7.5 percent) Compact Plus from N9,900 to N10,650; Compact bouquet from N6,300 to N6,800; Family from N3,800 to N4,000, and Access from N1,900 to N2,000.
The new rates took effect from August 1 this month.
The application was filed by the CPC on behalf of the federal
government, with the Director General of the Council, Babatunde
Irukera, leading other concerned Nigerians to appear in court for the
case.
The application was accompanied with a nine-paragraph statement
jointly signed by Messrs Irukera, Abimbola Ojenike, Eme David-Ojugo,
Moray Adebayo, Teniola Medupin and Florence Abebe.
The CPC said in the statement that it has constitutional responsibility to protect the welfare and interest of consumers in Nigeria through the instrumentality of the Council.
In the exercise of its statutory mandate, the Council said it was
conducting an investigation into DSTV’s compliance with its orders of
February 16, 2016 over alleged unfairness, arbitrariness and
excessiveness of pricing and billing systems.
Besides, the Council said it was also reviewing other emergent issues
relating to whether DSTV‘s business practices and specific conducts
were in violation of the law with respect to the rights of consumers
in Nigeria.
The Council noted that in the course of its investigation and
consultative engagement with the Multichoice Nigeria, DSTV
“preemptively and surreptitiously introduced a subscription regime
which imposes increased charges and costs on Nigerian Consumers of
digital satellite television service with effect from 1st August, 2018”.
The agency argued that unless the court restrained Multichoice
Nigeria, it was afraid DSTV or its representative would continue the
implementation of the increased subscription rate.
The action, it pointed out, was capable of “rendering ineffective and
nugatory the on-going regulatory investigation which seeks to prevent
continuing exploitation of Nigerian consumers through obnoxious and
exploitative billing systems and pricing regimes”
“An order of interim injunction restraining the Defendant/ Respondent by itself, agents, representatives, affiliates, officers or privies, howsoever described from continuing the implementation of any
increased subscription rate or price review policy imposing increased
charges and costs on the consumers of Defendant/Respondent’s services
pending the determination of the Plaintiff/Applicant’s Motion on
Notice for Interlocutory Injunction filed in this suit,” Mr Dimgba said.
The CPC asked the court to accord the matter accelerated hearing so
that the substantive issues raised would be determined and settled
definitively and expeditiously.
Consequently, the court adjourned the case to Tuesday, August 28, for hearing.
When contacted, the spokesperson of Multichoice Nigeria Limited,
Carole Oghuma, promised to send the company’s reaction to the court
order. However, at the time of this publication, the response was yet
to come in.

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