Tribunal orders Multichoice to give one-month free subscription to subscribers, pay N150m fine

The 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 pay television 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 pay television operator from implementing hike in its subscription rates for DStv and GOtv.

The CCPT had, on 29 April, restrained MultiChoice from increasing its tariffs and cost of products and services scheduled to begin on 1 May.

The tribunal gave the interim order following an ex-parte motion moved by Ejiro Awaritoma, counsel for the applicant, Festus Onifade.Mr Onifade, a lawyer and subscriber, had approached the tribunal contending that the eight-day notice given by Multichoice for a price hike was insufficient.

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

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

The tribunal granted the ex-parte motion of the applicant and stopped Multichoice 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 1 May.Following the price hike, Mr Onifade, on 7 May commenced contempt proceedings against 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 filed on 7 May by Mr Onifade warned Mr Sani against disregarding the tribunal order.

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

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

Mr 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 1 May subscription price increase.

Delivering the ruling, the Thomas Okosun-led tribunal agreed with Mr 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.

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