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Tribunal Fines MultiChoice N150 Million for Subscription Hike Violation

Tribunal Fines MultiChoice N150 Million for Subscription Hike Violation

By Matthew Eloyi

The Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT) has imposed a N150 million fine on Multichoice Nigeria Ltd. for disobeying its order regarding subscription rate hikes for DStv and GOtv packages.

The tribunal, which convened in Abuja on Friday, also mandated that the PayTv operator provide one month of free subscription to all Nigerian subscribers on the DStv and GOtv platforms as a penalty for defying its directive.

In a ruling delivered by the three-member tribunal chaired by Thomas Okosun, Multichoice was found guilty of contempt for flouting the tribunal’s previous order that restrained the PayTv operator from increasing its subscription rates for DStv and GOtv.

The CCPT had on April 29, issued an interim order preventing MultiChoice from implementing the planned tariff hike set to commence on May 1. This order followed an ex-parte motion by Ejiro Awaritoma, counsel for the applicant, Festus Onifade.

Onifade, a legal practitioner and subscriber, argued that the eight-day notice given by Multichoice for the price hike was insufficient. He urged the tribunal to halt the tariff increase pending the determination of the petition. The tribunal granted the motion, thereby stopping the price increase temporarily.

Despite the tribunal’s order, MultiChoice proceeded with the subscription rate hike on May 1, prompting Onifade to initiate contempt proceedings against Mr Mohammed Sani, Manager of the Abuja office of MultiChoice Nigeria Ltd, on May 7. The Notice of Consequence of Disobedience to Order of Court (Form 48), filed by Onifade, warned Sani against disregarding the tribunal’s order.

MultiChoice’s lawyer, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, filed a preliminary objection, urging the tribunal to decline jurisdiction over the suit, arguing that similar price dispute cases had previously been decided in favour of MultiChoice. However, Onifade countered that his petition did not concern price regulation or increase, but rather the adequacy of the notice given for the price hike.

“It is our submission that the 8-day notice issued by Multichoice Nigeria Ltd is insufficient in law. A monthly subscriber should be given at least a month,” Onifade contended, urging the tribunal to dismiss the preliminary objection.

Agreeing with Onifade’s submission, the tribunal upheld its jurisdiction and ruled against MultiChoice. The tribunal has scheduled July 3 for the hearing of the substantive suit filed by the claimant.

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