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Tribunal dismisses suit against MultiChoice’s price hike

by Goddie Ofose
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The Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, refused to grant a suit filed against MultiChoice, the operator of DStv and Gotv, over the recent price hike on their products and subscription rate.

In a judgment delivered by a three-member tribunal, headed by Thomas Okosun, the tribunal held that the power to regulate prices of goods and services did not reside in the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the regulatory agency.

It said the power to regulate prices of goods and services only resided in the President.

The tribunal, which held that the claimants failed to prove that MultiChoice had abused its power of dominance in the market, said since Nigeria operated a free market economy, the argument lacked merit.

The panel also refused to grant the claimants’ prayer to direct the firm to adopt a pay-as-you-view model of billing for all its products and services.

It, however, ordered FCCPC to investigate if the firm was adopting a pay-as-you-view package for its products and services in other countries, especially South Africa, and report back to the court within six months.

The tribunal, in its ruling, also dismissed the claimants’ demand for a N10m damages and declared that prayers 1, 2 and 3 of the claimants were could not be granted as the power to regulate prices of goods and services only resided in the President of Nigeria.

It also said prayers 4 and 5 of the claimants lacked merit.

The panel, however, ordered the management of MultiChoice to appear before it on September 8, 2022, with their 2021 audited financial statements.

Recall that on July 25, 2022, the tribunal had fixed September 6, 2022, for judgment in the suit filed by the claimants – Festus Onifade, a legal practitioner, and Coalition of Nigeria Consumers, on behalf of himself and others.

The claimants had sued the company and FCCPC as first and second respondents, shortly after the company, on March 22, announced its plan to increase the price of its products from April 1, 2022.

They had prayed the tribunal for an order, restraining the firm from increasing its services and other products on April 1, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated and filed on March 30.

And the tribunal granted the ex-parte motion, directing parties to maintain status quo ante bellum.

But despite the tribunal’s order, the company was alleged to have gone ahead with the price increase on DStv and Gotv subscriptions and other products.

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