“Multichoice is hereby ordered to give Nigerians one month free subscription.”~ Court

A three-member tribunal chaired by Saratu Shafii had ruled in favour of Onifade by restraining Multichoice in the  interim, in the suit marked CCPT/OP/2/2024, restraining the pay TV from going ahead with the impending price increase scheduled to take effect from 1st May 2024 pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

The three-member panel of the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal has ruled that Multichoice Nigeria must offer one month of free subscription to subscribers on its DStv and GOtv platforms. 

The tribunal also imposed a fine of N150 million on Multichoice for contesting the court’s jurisdiction. 

The Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal has ordered Pay-TV operator, Multichoice Nigeria to give subscribers on the DStv and GOtv platforms one month of free subscription.

The tribunal also fined Multichoice N150 million for challenging the jurisdiction of the court and disobeying its order which recently restrained it from increasing the prices of its DStv and GOtv packages.

The rulings were handed down on Friday, 7th June, by a three-man panel chaired by Justice Thomas Okosu.

Recall that Barrister Festus Onifade had dragged Multichoice and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission  (FCCPC) before the tribunal over the decision of the pay-tv operator to increase its subscription.

Multichoice announced new price adjustments on DStv and GOtv packages on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.

The email message to subscribers read, “On Wednesday, 1 May 2024 we will adjust our prices across all our packages on OStv and GOtv. We understand the impact this change may have on you – our valued customer, but the rise in the cost of business operations, has led us to make this difficult decision. It remains our mission to provide the best entertainment and viewing experience to you and are committed to continue to deliver high-quality content and unparalleled service.”

The tribunal thereafter restrained MultiChoice from increasing its subscription rates pending the hearing and determination of a motion on notice filed by Barrister Onifade.

(FCCPC) accused the Pay TV of unjustly increasing subscription fees without one-month notice to customers and leveraging this to seek interim orders against Pay TV.

A three-member tribunal chaired by Saratu Shafii had ruled in favour of Onifade by restraining Multichoice in the  interim, in the suit marked CCPT/OP/2/2024, restraining the pay TV from going ahead with the impending price increase scheduled to take effect from 1st May 2024 pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

But Multichoice’s lawyer, Moyosore .J. Onibanjo (SAN) filed a preliminary objection urging the court to decline jurisdiction on the suit filed by Festus Onifade and strike it out because such a price dispute case had been decided before in favour of his client.

Onibanjo also tendered and adopted the previous judgement of the tribunal in suit no CCPT/OP/1/2022(Exhibit A), alongside his application, saying when a court has determined an issue between the same parties on the same subject matter before, that matter cannot be re-litigated again by any tribunal or court.

He stressed that the power to regulate prices is vested in the president of Nigeria, adding that the Tribunal is not the forum where the claimant can come to seek to regulate the prices and services offered by Multichoice.

On his part, Onifade argued that the issue he placed before the court is  whether Multichoice Nigeria gave adequate notice in respect of the May 1, 2024 price TV subscription increase, and not price regulation or increase.

“It is our submission that the 8-day notice issued by Multichoice Nigeria  is insufficient in law. A monthly subscriber should be given at least a month.

“Dismiss this application (by Multichoice )for being a waste of time of the court,” Onifade prayed.

He also asked the Tribunal to direct 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.”

Counsel for the FCCPC, Nikiomari Abeke,  told the CCPT that he was not opposing the application of Multichoice Nigeria but would abide by the direction of the tribunal regarding all the processes before it.

In a judgement delivered on Friday, Justice Okosu held that Section 39(2) of the FCCPC Act states that the tribunal shall have jurisdiction throughout the federation and on all commercial activities aimed at making a profit.

“The jurisdiction of this tribunal extends to all business activities within Nigeria,” Okosu said.

He said he looked at relevant provisions cited by parties and did not find where an aggrieved consumer who seeks to enforce his rights is required to file a complaint to the President of Nigeria or the Price Control Board.

The judge also observed that the claimant wrote letters to the FCCPC before filing his case.

“I have come to the conclusion that this tribunal has the jurisdiction to preside over consumer rights as in the instant case and I resolve this issue against Multichoice,” the judge said.

The Tribunal noted that Multichoice has already disobeyed its interim orders, adding that its action of hiking DSTV and GOTV prices is condemnable and must not be condoned by the Tribunal.

The tribunal dismissed Multichoice’s preliminary objection for disobeying its interim orders.

Subsequently, 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.

“Multichoice is hereby ordered to give Nigerians one month free subscription.”