Tariff increase: Tribunal fines Multichoice N150m, free subscription for contempt

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A Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT) on Friday slammed N150 million fine against Multichoice Nig. Ltd. for disobeying its order on subscription rates hike for DStv and Gotv packages.

The tribunal, sitting in Abuja, also ordered the PayTv operator to give one month free subscription to all its Nigerian subscribers on the DStv and Gotv platforms, for flouting its order.

The three-member tribunal chaired by Thomas Okosun in a ruling, found Multichoice culpable of contempt, by flouting its earlier order restraining the PayTv operator from implementing hike in its subscription rates for DStv and GOtv.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the CCPT had, on April 29, restrained MultiChoice from increasing its tariffs and cost of products and services scheduled to begin on May 1.

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The tribunal gave the interim order following an ex-parte motion moved by Ejiro Awaritoma, counsel for the applicant, Festus Onifade.

Onifade, a legal practitioner and subscriber had approached the tribunal contending that the 8-day notice given by Multichoice for a price hike was insufficient.

Respondents in the case were MultiChoice and Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).

He urged the tribunal to restrain Multichoice  from implementing the tariff hike from May 1 as planned, pending the hearing determination of the petition.

The tribunal granted the ex-parte motion of the applicant and stopped the PayTv operator from going ahead with the price increase in the interim.

However, in defiance of the tribunal’s order, MultiChoice hiked its subscription rates for DStv and Gotv packages on the scheduled date (May 1).

Following the price hike, Onifade, on May 7, commenced contempt proceedings against Mr Mohammed Sani, Manager of Abuja office of MultiChoice Nigeria Ltd, over alleged disobedience to the order made by the CCPT.

The Notice of Consequence of Disobedience to Order of Court (Form 48) marked: CCPT/OP/02/2024 dated and filed on May 7 by Onifade, warned Sani against disregard to the tribunal order.

MultiChoice, through its lawyer, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, filed a preliminary objection praying the tribunal to decline jurisdiction in the suit.

Onigbanjo argued that such price dispute case had been decided before, in favour of his client.

Onifade, in his response, urged the tribunal to discountenance the company’s objection and direct it to pay the sum of N10 billion or any amount the panel might deem fit in the circumstance for deliberately disobeying and failure to comply with the interim order.

The lawyer argued that the issue he brought did not border on price regulation or increase.

He explained that what he placed before the court was whether the company gave adequate notice in respect of the May 1 subscription price increase.

“It is our submission that the 8-days notice issued by Multichoice Nigeria Ltd is insufficient in law.

“A monthly subscriber should be given at least a month,” he said, praying the tribunal to dismiss the preliminary objection for being a waste of time of the court.

Delivering the ruling, the Thomas Okosun-led tribunal agreed with Onifade’s submission, prompting the panel to affirm its jurisdiction and rule against the company.

The tribunal subsequently fixed July 3 for hearing of the substantive suit of the claimant.(NAN)

By Taiye Agbaje

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