Court Fines Multichoice, Orders Free Subscription For Nigerians

Court Fines Multichoice, Orders Free Subscription For Nigerians

The Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT) has ruled in favour of Nigerians in a dispute with pay-TV operator Multichoice Nigeria.

The Tribunal imposed a N150 million fine on Multichoice and ordered the company to provide a one-month free subscription to all DStv and GOtv customers.

The ruling was delivered by a three-man panel led by Justice Thomas Okosu on Friday. This decision follows a suit CCPT/OP/2/2024, filed by Barrister Festus Onifade.

In April 2024, Multichoice announced upcoming price adjustments for their DStv and GOtv packages, citing rising operational costs.

The email to subscribers read: “On Wednesday, 1 May 2024 we will adjust our prices across all our packages on DStv 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.”

This move resulted in a 25-26 percent increase across various subscription tiers.

Onifade challenged this action, focusing on the lack of proper notice rather than the price hike itself. He argued that the eight-day notice given by Multichoice before a price hike in May 2024 was insufficient.

The Tribunal, led by Justice Saratu Shafii, previously issued a restraining order preventing Multichoice from implementing the price increase scheduled for May 1, 2024, until the case was settled.

However, Multichoice disregarded the order and proceeded with the price adjustments.

Multichoice’s counsel, Moyosore J. Onibanjo (SAN), contested the CCPT’s authority to hear the case, citing a previous price dispute ruling in their favour.

Onibanjo tendered the previous judgement of the tribunal in suit no CCPT/OP/1/2022 (Exhibit A), alongside his application, stating that a court had ruled on the matter between the same parties, on the same subject, and that the same matter cannot be reinitiated by any tribunal or court.

He stated that the power to regulate prices is vested in the president of Nigeria, adding that the Tribunal is not the forum where the claimant can come to seek to regulate the prices and services offered by Multichoice.

Responding, Onifade said: “It is our submission that the 8-day 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 on the court.”

Onifade also prayed the court to direct Multi-choice Nigeria Limited to pay a fine of N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira only) or any amount the court may deem fit for “deliberately disobeying, contravening, and failure to comply with the Interim Order of this Honourable Tribunal granted on the 29th April 2024.”

The Tribunal’s ruling on Friday condemned Multichoice’s actions. They emphasized the company’s failure to comply with the interim order and the inadequate notice period provided to customers.

“The jurisdiction of this tribunal extends to all business activities within Nigeria.

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

“Multichoice is hereby ordered to give Nigerians a one month free subscription.” the judge ruled.

Okosu noted that 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.

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