Nigerian Tribunal fines Multichoice N150m, one-month free DStv/Gotv subscription for users

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Nigeria’s Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal sitting in the country’s capital, Abuja has fined Multichoice Nigeria the total sum of N150 million for challenging the court’s jurisdiction and ordered the company to provide a one-month free DStv and GOtv subscription to users in the country.

The judgement was delivered today by a bench of three judges led by Thomas Okosu.

Recall that the Tribunal had previously issued an interim stay order that had restrained MultiChoice from increasing its subscription rates pending the hearing and determination of a motion on a notice filed by Barrister Festus Onifade. Onifade sued Multi-Choice Nigeria Ltd and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission for unjustly increasing subscription fees without one-month notice to customers.

Multichoice announced a price adjustment for DStv and GOtv packages on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. The new price regime was supposed to take effect on the 15th of May.

The tribunal held that Multichoice is “hereby restrained from going ahead with impending price increase schedule to take effect from May 2024 pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice already filed before this Honourable Tribunal”. The tribunal ordered that all parties in the suit are to appear before the panel on May 7th for a hearing and determination of the motion.

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Subsequently, Multichoice Nigeria challenged the jurisdiction of the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT) to restrain it from increasing the prices of its DStv and GOtv packages.

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Multichoice’s lawyer, M.J. Onibanjo (SAN) told the CCPT via his application on Tuesday that it should decline jurisdiction on the suit filed by Festus Onifade because such a price dispute case had been decided before in favour of his client.

The lawyer also maintained that the planned increase announced by Multichoice on 24th April 2024 is a completed act because all its systems have been so configured.

On the 1st of May, Multichoice proceeded with the upward adjustment of its prices for DStv and GOtv subscribers by 25%, despite the court ruling ordering a stay of action.

For DStv Premium subscribers, the price has moved from N29,500 to N37,000. Also, the price for Compact Plus has soared from 19,800 to 25,000. The Compact bouquet rate has moved from N12,500 to 15,700 while Confam and Yanga subscribers will now pay N9,300 and N5,100 respectively from their previous rates of N7,400 and N4,200.

At that time, the Acting Chairman of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Adamu Abdullahi, Multichoice wrote a four-page letter to the commission explaining the reason behind the upward price review.  

In the letter, Abdullahi stated that the company identified issues such as foreign exchange crunch, high electricity tariff and cost of running generators as some of the reasons why the rates were reviewed.  

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Following the price increase, Barrister Onifade in a fresh motion, asked the Tribunal to order Multi-choice Nigeria Limited to pay the sum of N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira only) or any amount the Tribunal deem may fit appropriate in this circumstance for “deliberately disobeying, contravening, and failure to comply with the Interim Order of this Honourable Tribunal granted on the 29th April 2024.”

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

The Tribunal noted that Multichoice has already disobeyed its interim orders, adding that hiking DSTV and GOTV prices is condemnable and must not be condoned. The tribunal dismissed Multichoice’s preliminary objection for disobeying its interim orders.

As a result, 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“. It also added that the satellite pay-tv company should compensate users with internet subscriptions: “Multichoice is hereby ordered to give Nigerians one month free subscription.” 

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