MultiChoice Nigeria said on Friday it filed an appeal against last Monday’s order of the Federal High Court, Abuja stopping it from increasing subscription rates to its cable television services.
But, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) insists the order of the high court stopping implementation of the new tariffs will subsist till the appeal has been heard and ruling given by the court.
Last Monday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja issued an order restraining the cable television broadcasting company, its agents or representatives from going ahead with the increment of subscription rates till further notice.
The order followed an application filed on behalf of the Nigerian government by the CPC in case No. FHC/ABJ/CS/894 to stop any upward review of subscription fees for DSTV and GoTV services.
Early last month, MultiChoice Nigeria announced its decision to review upwards the monthly subscription rates for its cable television services, namely DSTV and GoTV, with effect from August 1.
Under the new price regime, the company said the Premium package subscribers pay about 7.5 per cent more (about N15,800) from about N14,700 every month.
Also, their Compact Plus customers were to pay N10,650, from N9,900; Compact bouquets N6,800, from N6,300, while the Family package was increased from N3,800 to N4,000, with Access from N1,900 to N2,000.
However, the Director-General of the CPC, Babatunde Irukera, who led other concerned Nigerians to file the application, said in the statement of claims before the court that the action by Multichoice Nigeria contravened an ongoing investigation.
Other applicants who signed a nine-paragraphs statement of claims included Abimbola Ojenike, Eme David-Ojugo, Moray Adebayo, Teniola Medupin and Florence Abebe.
In his ruling on Monday, Justice Dimgba said the interim injunction restraining Multichoice Nigeria or its agents and representatives was to halt its “continuing implementation of any increase in subscription rates or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on the consumers pending the determination of the motion on notice.”
Also, Multichoice Nigeria was “restrained from further carrying on or continuing any conduct or activity which interferes with or has effect of circumventing the outcome of ongoing investigations by the CPC into the company’s compliance or non-compliance with the February 16, 2016 order pending the determination of the motion on notice.”
Regardless, MultiChoice Nigeria in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday confirmed it was served with an interim order by the Federal High Court regarding the price adjustment it implemented on August 1, 2018.
Order An Affront To Free Market
The company said it believed the order was “an affront to the free market economy.”
Consequently, it said it had proceeded to file “a Notice of Appeal and an application for stay of execution, pending the hearing of the Appeal.”
“In light of the application for a stay of execution, the status quo therefore prevails,” the firm said indicating the new tariffs would continue.
“MultiChoice Nigeria will always operate within the ambit of the law and will continue with the authorities to ensure the best outcome for our customers. We remain committed to providing the best quality of entertainment and premium content at the best possible prices,” it added.
The spokesperson of Multichoice Nigeria, Caroline Oghuma, said the CPC was served with the requisite court processes.
Asked to clarify the price regime covered by period for the stay of execution and return to status quo requested by Multichoice Nigeria, Ms Oghuma said the new prices announced by the company from August 1, 2018 was the status quo period.
Pressed for further clarification about the prices that existed prior to February 16, 2016 when the CPC said it was basing its investigation Multichoice’s compliance, the spokesperson said she would not discuss any further, as the matter was already in court.
When contacted, the spokesperson of CPC, Abiodun Obimuyiwa, confirmed the consumer protection agency received the court process filed by Multichoice Nigeria on the matter.
Mr Obimuyiwa said the CPC believes the court order would subsist until the application for appeal was heard and ruling given by the court to either reject or upheld.
“It is only when the judge has listened to the arguments by the parties in the case and a ruling given. As far as CPC is concerned, the order of the court issued on Monday stopping Multichoice from going ahead with the rates increase subsists till further notice.
“Until the court rules that the order should be vacated, that order is the status quo reffered to by the application for appeal. What that means is, if Multichoice goes ahead to collect the new subscription rates from subscribers, it would be acting in violation of the court order and will be in contempt,” the spokesperson said.
Already, the council said on Friday several subscribers to DSTV and GoTV services had complained about their inability to renew their subscriptions based on the pre-August 1, 2018 rates.
The council said the development may have confirmed that Multichoice Nigeria had gone ahead with the implementation of the new tariffs in defiance of Monday’s court restriction order.
Consequently, the Council said it had set up a special channel, firstname.lastname@example.org, for the affected customers to send emails detailing their complaints about their experiences.
Complainants were asked to state relevant information, including smart card number, name, telephone number, date and time of failed attempt to pay, supporting same with relevant evidence such as a screenshot or document (where necessary).
“The Council is informing the public that it is a violation of the order of the court for Multichoice to require consumers to pay, or to receive any new rate for their service, from consumers.
“For clarity, the current, valid and prevailing rate for DStv and GOtv services are the rates that were effective as at July 31, 2018,” the statement said.