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Tariff Hikes: Court slaps N150m fine on MultiChoice, orders 1-month free subscription for Nigerians

*The Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT), sitting in Abuja, fines MultiChoice Nigeria Limited, a prominent pay TV operator and owner of DSTv and GOTv, N150 million for challenging the courts jurisdiction in the West African country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In a move to further protect the interests of pay TV consumers, the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT), sitting in Abuja, FCT, has fined MultiChoice Nigeria Limited, a prominent pay TV operator and owner of DSTv, GOTv, N150 million for disputing the court’s jurisdiction in the West African country.

ConsumerConnect reports the three-man CCPT, led by Justice Thomas Okosu, which handed down the verdict Friday, June 7, 2024, also ordered the company to provide all Nigerian subscribers with a month’s free subscription.

The verdict was based on a lawsuit instituted by Barr. Festus Onifade, who claimed the eight-day notice the pay TV firm had given for the price increments was inadequate.

Barr. Onifade had sued DSTv, accusing the company of unjustly increasing subscription fees without a month’s notice to consumers, while seeking interim orders.

Prior to the court’s order Friday, counsel for MultiChoice was reported to have argued that previous rulings had settled price regulation issues.

He also contended that Onifade focused on the inadequate notice rather than the price hike itself, prompting the tribunal to affirm its jurisdiction and rule against MultiChoice.

The court subsequently fixed July 3 for a hearing of the plaintiff’s substantive suit.

MultiChoice’s penchant for flouting regulatory orders on product, service tariff increments

It is recalled the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal, after the company’s reported previous attempts at flouting regulatory directives in the host country, in April this year, again ordered MultiChoice Nigeria to not increase its subscription tariffs, as well as costs of products and services, which it had planned to take effect from May 1.

The three-member Tribunal, then presided over by Saratu Shafii, also issued the interim order Monday, April 29 following an ex-parte motion moved by Ejiro Awaritoma, counsel for the applicant, Barr. Onifade.

The CCPT, in a ruling, restrained MultiChoice from actualising the planned price increases, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed before it.

Shafii also directed all parties in the suit to appear before the tribunal May 7 at 10 a.m. for the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

The petitioner had dragged MultiChoice Nigeria Limited and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) before the tribunal.

Onifade, also a legal practitioner, had sought two orders, including “an order of interim injunction of this honourable tribunal restraining the 1st defendant 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.

“An order restraining the 1st defendant from taking any step(s) that may negatively affect the rights of the claimant and other consumers in respect of the suit pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”

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