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MultiChoice tariff hike: Was tribunal judgment fair?

Shortly after MultiChoice (operators of DSTV/GOtv) made its announcement earlier in the year to increase subscription rate with effect from April 1, an Abuja-based lawyer, Festus Onifade, and a coalition of Nigeria consumers filed a petition against the price hike in Nigeria

The defendants in the suit were Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC, and MultiChoice

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The petitioners prayed the tribunal for an order to restrain MultiChoice from increasing its services and other products pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated and filed on March 30

Although the company allegedly went ahead with the price ignored the tribunal’s order and went ahead with the price increase on its DSTV and GOtv subscription and other products

The petitioners also demanded that the pay TV firm be ordered to adopt a “Pay-as-you-view” TV subscription plan as it does in other countries

The tribunal, on the other hand in its judgement on Tuesday, held that it had the requisite jurisdiction to hear the suit, but it dismissed the matter for lacking in merit.

The tribunal held that the price increase was valid, adding that the claimants failed to establish that MultiChoice abused its dominant position in the market.

More so, the panel held that neither the FCCP, the tribunal itself nor any other body has the power to regulate price.

“Only the President has the powers to regulate or fix prices of goods and services under stipulated circumstances which do not apply in this instance,” it held.

More so, the tribunal held that the Claimants failed to adduce any evidence or to establish how they suffered psychological trauma, hardship, or how their rights were violated as a result of the price hike.

It held that the litigants were unable to show evidence of hardship suffered by the consumers of MultiChoice’s services and products.

Speaking with Nigerians who are consumers of the services offered by MultiChoice in Nigeria, an Abuja-based ICT expert who lives in Jikwoyi, Segun Ajibola, said he wasn’t too happy with the tribunal’s judgement as it is time for Nigerians and the government to put the interest of Nigerians first. He lamented that foreign companies are in the habit of coming to Nigeria to rip Nigerians off

He said, “Honestly speaking, I do not support the tribunal’s judgement because these foreign companies come to Nigeria and we welcome them with open arms without discrimination but they turn around to rip us off. DSTV charges are on the high side. They need to be regulated. Regulating the content they put out is not enough, the charges should also be regulated

Amina Shaku, who is resident at Lugbe in Abuja, said she expected the tribunal to have been able to Grant the pay-as-you-view request of the petitioners because that is something every Nigerian who uses the DSTV/GOtv services would have appreciated a great deal

She noted that the epileptic power supply in Nigeria is enough reason to make it mandatory for Pay TV companies to operate Pay-As-You-View

She said “Nigeria’s power supply is not sure at all and most times, after subscribing to a bouquet, there will be a power outage for the whole month. The only time you get to watch what you already paid for is when you switch on the generator which is only for a few hours and not every day. Yet, at the end of the month, your subscription expires and you have to renew. It’s just not fair on the consumers” she said

Salihu Abdullahi, a medical doctor said, “Why should they dismiss the suit? Sometimes I don’t understand the Nigerian judicial system. The price hike is an obvious discomfort to the consumers because there’s so much hardship in the country now and it’s insensitive on the part of MultiChoice to increase their tariff now.

“To think they were ordered not to by the tribunal and they went ahead to increase it. The fine is not enough because it goes to the coffers of the government. We need a sanction on them that will benefit the masses”

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Abraham Moses said, “I could understand why they had to increase their subscription rate because of the diesel price hike and maybe the dollar rise against the naira also played a role but why can’t they make the Pay-as-you-view work?

“We shouldn’t be made to pay for what we did not use. I plead with the right authorities to look into this and enforce only the Pay-as-you-view method for all pay-TV platforms in the country. If they can’t adhere, they can pack up”

Chinaza Ndubisi, said “DSTV/GOtv operators are answerable to the Nigerian Laws. I believe the tribunal can enforce the stop in price hike as well as the Pay-as-you-view mode that Nigerians are yearning for. If the DSTV/GOtv operators don’t obey, they can be sent out of Nigeria by the government and I am sure they wouldn’t want that because Nigeria is their biggest market in the whole of Africa.

“As such, they would have to obey but the government is not taking it seriously enough because they are not affected. They pay for the whole year in advance and also have a steady power supply. So, they can’t relate with the middle-income earners and the poor who face these challenges.”

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