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Price hike: Lawyer asks court to sanction MultiChoice for disobeying order

A lawyer, Festus Onifade, asked the Competition and Consumer Protection (CCPC) Tribunal in Abuja to sanction Multiple choice for disobeying an existing ordinance prohibiting the pay-TV company from raising prices for its products and services.

Mr Onifade and the Coalition of Nigeria Consumers jointly sued MultiChoice – operator of DSTV and GOTV in Nigeria – and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).

The plaintiffs are asking the court for an order restraining MultiChoice from increasing subscription prices for its services and other products.

MultiChoice announced on March 22 that it would begin the new pricing regime on April 1.

Following the planned announcement of the price increase, the plaintiffs approached the court urging it to halt the price increase pending the hearing and disposition of the notice motion dated and filed March 30.

On March 30, the court granted the ex parte motion ordering the parties to maintain the status quo pending the decision on the entire lawsuit.

But MultiChoice ignored the restraining order by raising the price of its products and services.

“Why MultiChoice should be penalized”

When proceedings resumed on Thursday, Mr Onifade urged the court to sanction MultiChoice, saying: “MultiChoice has a history of violating court orders.”

He argued that the pay-TV giant in Nigeria breached the March 30 court order, which called on the parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum.

But Multichoice lawyer Jamiu Agoro argued the price-raising arrangement was put in place before the March 30 order was issued by the court.

He challenged Mr. Onifade’s procedure of initiating contempt proceedings by failing to first serve Forms 48 and 49 on the alleged contempt (MultiChoice) before filing the claim.


Further, Multichoice’s attorney argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the action, adding that his client “cannot be held in contempt of an order he enforced and that this court cancels”.

While challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear and adjudicate the lawsuit, Mr Agoro said the plaintiffs had not exhausted the statutory provision – which requires plaintiffs to first file a petition with the Federal Security Commission. Competition and Consumer Protection (FCCPC) before going to court.

The “Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT) is mandated to hear appeals or review any decision of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) taken in connection with the implementation of any of the provisions of the FCCPA,” Mr. Agoro said. argued.

He said the plaintiffs’ prosecution was not determined by the FCCPC until they filed their lawsuit in court.

Mr. Agoro urged the court to dismiss the contempt proceedings as well as the entire suit.

However, in a response on points of law, Mr Onifade explained that the Sherrif and Civil Process Act which applies to the High Courts does not apply in the case in relation to the service of Forms 48 and 49. in presumed contempt.

He drew the court’s attention to article 51 of the CCPT law, which empowers him “to impose sanctions on any company that violates the court order”.

The attorney advised the court that the plaintiffs’ March 2020 motion challenging Multichoice’s price increase was never determined by the FCCPC.

“The FCCCPC’s refusal to hear and rule on our motion in March 2020 when MultiChoice increased its pricing, forced us to approach the court when it announced that it would be implementing a new pricing regime,” Mr. Onifade said while urging the court to assume jurisdiction over the suit.

Court fines MultiChoice N100,000

Due to the failure of the lawyer for Multichoice to file all necessary documents and applications in the prosecution, the three-member panel chaired by Thomas Okosun imposed a fine of N100,000 on Mr. Agoro.

Mr. Agoro had requested an adjournment to allow him to respond to the submissions of the plaintiffs in the substantive action contrary to the court’s June 20 direction to all parties to file and adopt their closing arguments on Thursday to allow him to set a date of judgment.

Meanwhile, the 2nd defendant’s FCCPC attorney, Tam Tamuno, said he had not filed any documents regarding the lawsuit.

Mr. Tamuno told the court that his client would respect any decision made by the court.

Subsequently, the court adjourned the trial until July 25 following Mr. Agoro’s request for an adjournment.

Background

In Mr. Onifade’s lawsuit, he urged the court to issue an order restraining Multichoice from increasing subscriptions to its television services on April 1, pending hearing and decision on the notice motion filed on April 30. march.

The court granted the motion ex parte, ordering the parties to maintain the “antebellum status quo”.

But, at a hearing on April 11, the plaintiff said he filed a written action for address and contempt against company management for allegedly ignoring the March 30 court order.

But Multichoice’s lawyer, Mr. Agoro, argued that because of his motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction, “this court must first ascertain whether it has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the motion.”

Pay TV, Multichoice Nigeria, headquartered in South Africa, increased its subscriptions while the lawsuit was pending.

Multichoice had announced new pricing for its offerings in Nigeria, the company’s latest price increase that is sure to irritate its customers.

The company said that from April 1, subscribers will pay more for all its packages and its premium package on DSTV will cost N21,000, down from N18,400.

Compact Plus which previously cost N12,400 will now cost N14,250 while Compact will cost N9,000 instead of N7,900.


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