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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Tribunal Orders GOTV, DSTV Owner to Give Nigerians One-Month Free Subscription, Pay N150m


By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Multichoice Nigeria, the company behind DSTV and GOtv services, has been ordered to provide Nigerian customers with free one-month subscription to DSTV and GOtv packages.

The order was given on Friday by the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal, as penalty for the company’s failure to adhere to the Tribunal’s earlier directive, which barred it from raising its monthly subscription rates until the resolution of an ongoing legal dispute involving the company.

In addition to the free one-month subscription, Multichoice was also fined the sum of one hundred and fifty million naira (N150m) for the same offense of contempt.

The legal battle began when Abuja-based lawyer Festus Onifade filed a lawsuit against Multichoice, arguing that the eight-day notice given for the price increase was insufficient. Following this, the tribunal issued an order restraining Multichoice from increasing its subscription fees without proper notice.

Subsequently, Onifade filed contempt charges against Multichoice for disregarding the tribunal’s orders and proceeding with the price hike, which was communicated to customers via email.

On May 7, these contempt charges were directed at Mohammed Sani, the Manager of Multichoice Nigeria’s Abuja branch. Onifade urged the Tribunal to impose a penalty of N1 billion, or any amount it deemed appropriate, for the company’s willful disregard of the interim order issued on April 29.

The Tribunal’s notice emphasized the importance of compliance with its directives, stating: “Take notice that unless you obey the under-listed order of the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal, Abuja, given on the 29th day of April 2024, thus: ‘An order restraining the 1st defendant/respondent either by itself, agents, representatives, officers, or privies, howsoever described from carrying out the impending increase in tariffs and cost of its products and services intended to take effect from 1st May 2024, until the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed before this tribunal’.”

While Multichoice defended its actions by citing previous rulings that addressed price regulation issues, Onifade argued that the inadequate notice period was a significant concern, prompting the Tribunal to reaffirm its authority and rule against Multichoice; even as it (the Tribunal) also fixed July 3 for hearing of the substantive suit filed by Onifade.

MultiChoice is a South African company that operates DStv, a major satellite television service in Sub-Saharan Africa, and GOtv, a minor service operating in over nine countries of this area and Showmax service.

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