Tariff increase: Why I dragged MultiChoice to court – Activist

Multichoice Nigeria, owners of Nigerian pay television, DStv and GOtv, late last month announced a price increase for its packages.

Despite court order, the new prices took effect from May 1, 2024

The south-african owned company blamed the latest increase on a “rise in the cost of business operations.”

The development has been attracting angry reactions from Nigerians.

The pay-TV firm said customers on the DStv premium bouquet will be paying N37,000 as against the current N29,500, and those on Compact+ would pay N25,000 from N19,800.

Customers on Compact bouquet will pay N15,700 — up from N12,500.

To subscribe to Confam, Yanga, and Padi packages, customers will pay N9,300, N5,100, and N3,600 from N7,400, N4,200, and N2,950 respectively.

For GOTV package: Supa plus increased from N12,500 to N15,700; Supa old increased from N7,600 to N9,600; Max increased from N5,700 to N7,200; and Jolli increased from N3,950 to N4,850;.

Also, Jinja package increased from N2,700 to N3,300; and the Smallie package increased from N1,300 to N1,575.

Reacting to the announcement, some Nigerians, including the General Overseer of the Omega Power Ministry, Apostle Chibuzor Gift Chinyere, announced plans to boycott the cable network.

Posting on his Facebook page, the clergyman wrote: “Millions of Nigerians can no longer meet up with the current price of DSTV/ GOLD TV subscription because of the current economic reality in Nigeria. So as my current subscription is expiring, I shall not be renewing my DSTV subscription until DSTV reduces the price.

“Starting from today I will be searching for alternatives that I will be watching because basically it is majorly news and OPM TV which is a 24 hours television station I watch when I am chanced. But DSTV, NO to renewal of subscription until prizes are reviewed downwards”.

One of those who are aggrieved over the price increment is activist lawyer, Madubuach Idam, who claimed it was an avenue to exploit Nigerians, hence his decision to drag the company before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/562/2024, Idam prayed, among others, for an order directing Multichoice Nigeria Limited to regulate or metre its decoder to enable customers pay-per-view or during viewing and also an order compelling the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to direct every other Television cable network provider to, in the same vein, regulate or metre their subscription to read in like manner.

“MultiChoice has decided to increase their subscription, so we can’t continue to contain this nonsense.

“If you see the reception this matter has in the Federal High Court in Abuja, almost all the court staff were so eager to assist in one way or the other, unlike them. Nigerians are bleeding, people are suffering, and nobody is happy with this billing while we continue to permit it.

“People are just complicit, comfortable and are paying the bill. I don’t know why I should be charged for services I did not enjoy. If I buy a subscription today and don’t use it for whatever reason like not having light or, in most cases, it will take one week or more to reflect, but when they will start counting is the day you purchased the subscription, so for them, once it gets to one month – used or not – you will be cut out of subscription, it has expired and they will even call you to renew it.”

The rights lawyer called on Multichoice and other television cable network operators to switch to per-per-view because Nigerians can’t continue to pay for services without getting the relevant value.

He said: “The only measure is for Multichoice to metre and regulate their subscriptions to read Perview. If they can, it will be fair to both parties.

“We are not asking that they make it free for Nigerians. I can’t be paying for services I didn’t use; you can imagine a situation where somebody just subscribed to his GOTV or DSTV and the next day, he had reason to travel, then after one month, you get a call from the company that your subscription has expired when nobody is in your house.

“The annoying thing is that they will harass you with calls to remind you of the need to subscribe.

“This means that they have a system where they monitor you, and they know that you have not been using it, whether you didn’t use it, or their network prevented you from using it during a major part of the month, they don’t care.

“The court should direct Multichoice and others to switch to pay-per-view; if you look at the relief, I asked the court to compel these people to regulate their subscription to read per-view.

“I also prayed the court to compel the FCCPC, NBC, Attorney General of the Federation to direct other television network stations to comply with metering per-view so that there will be no issue of exploitation.

“We are saying Nigerians should be able to enjoy the value of services they are paying for. Things are hard so a foreign company should not be permitted to leverage our vulnerability to exploit us; our system should not allow it.”

The constitutional lawyer decried the attitude of Multichoice towards Nigerian subscribers, stressing that direct foreign investments that are exploitative are not needed in Nigeria.

He said: “Even if Nigeria was in need of investors, these types of investors are exploitative, extortionists, and I don’t know why Nigerians continue to condone it.

“We are uncomfortable with it, yet we are not doing anything; I expected a class action against Multichoice. Yes, we crave investors, but it should not be to our detriment. We should not bring investors that come in and exploit us. As much as I don’t want to sound ethnophobic, such practices can’t happen in South Africa.

“The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, sections 115, 114, 121, and 126 prohibits an investor in Nigeria from engaging in an unfair trade practice that will be exploitative and extortionate.

“So, I do not know why this person will continue to operate in this manner, yet Nigerians are permitting it. What will it cost them to metre their subscription to read per-view where a subscriber can actually enjoy the service?

“For example, my electricity will not read if I don’t use it; if I buy airtime on my phone and don’t use it to make a call, it won’t read; so now, why should Multichoice make their own different that whether you use it or not it will expire after one month and there is no room for rollover.

“They will call you on the phone without caring to know if you used it or not within the period of subscription. I have not seen anything that is more exploitative than this.

“This is a private business enterprise where somebody is making money off millions of Nigerians, and nobody is talking; we are just comfortable. They will come up any day to tell you they have increased the bill. This is why we have decided to take it up by filing the action, and then it is left to the court to decide.

“All we are asking is for them to regulate it to read per-view in a fair and transparent manner; they should not hide under the regulation to inflate the bill and make it difficult for subscribers; regulate it to read during viewing; if I don’t view it, let it be there. They will still make their profit and Nigerians will still maximise what they are using their money for.”

The rights lawyer charged Nigerians to hold the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC, responsible for Multichoice inability to switch to the pay-per-view system.

He said: “Nigerians should hold the FCCPC responsible for the exploitation because they are saddled with the function of regulating service providers to ensure they do not exploit Nigerians.

“Why should this commission be there and Nigerians are crying? The government functions through agencies, and when the agency is created with the responsibility of charting a particular course, it’s expected that it will leave up to that responsibility.

“They are the ones Nigerians should hold responsible because they are more interested in fun fair and ceremonial press briefings while the real issues are there.

“Government should be interested in protecting the rights of citizens.”

He added that, “We have sufficient laws in Nigeria, like I cited the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, which is powered by the National Assembly, and it seeks to protect the rights of consumers in Nigeria. It is for consumers to challenge any exploitative act that is inconsistent with the provision of that law.

“The National Assembly can’t come and challenge that right for Nigerians. NASS is for making laws and oversight functions; I’m not trying to hold brief for them, but they are complicit in matters that do not directly benefit them.

“This is why you don’t see them interfering in serious cases. This is purely a private business enterprise or what they call foreign direct investment, and most of these NASS members are shareholders in that company.

“This is making it difficult because when you bring this kind of matter to them for intervention through their oversight function, politics now comes in.

“It’s for Nigerians to take advantage of that law to challenge it in court and have a sound-minded judge to interpret the law with you to effect the desired change in the society.

“What do you expect from the National Assembly that has passed the law that the consumer in Nigeria should be protected, not extorted, there should not be unfair trade practice, that any trade that is unfair is inconsistent with the law? What else should the NASS do?

“Even though the act didn’t have Multichoice in mind, it said any business in Nigeria that doesn’t conform with this particular law is ineffective.

“People even expected that it should have mentioned the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act; I can tell you that that agency is moribund; they are sleeping – if not for the Supermarket issue – nobody would know that it still exists. I wrote to them about this issue last year, but they never responded.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *