A Competition and Consumer Protection (CCPC) Tribunal sitting in Abuja has held that the tariff increase by MultiChoice, the operator of Gotv and DStv was just and legal and that only the president of Nigeria has powers to regulate prices in certain circumstances.
The tribunal on Tuesday held that the power to regulate prices of goods and products could not, therefore, be delved into by the Protection Commission ( 2nd respondents ) nor the tribunal.
The tribunal, however, ordered Multichoice to go and investigate the operations of the pay-as-you-view subscription and report back to the tribunal within six months.
Festus A. Onifade, a legal practitioner, and Coalition of Nigeria Consumers, on behalf of himself and others, had sued the company and Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) as 1st and 2nd respondents, shortly after the company, on March 22, announced its plan to increase the price of its products from April 1.
The claimants have filed a suit against MultiChoice, the operator of Gotv and DStv, over the planned price hike on their products and subscription rate.
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 on April 11, the tribunal again ordered MultiChoice to revert back to the old prices by maintaining status quo of its March 30 order, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive matter.
But counsel for MultiChoice, Jamiu Agoro, in a motion in notice challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the matter.
The prayers, according to the lawyer, include “an order for stay of execution of the order of the Honourable Tribunal made on March 30, pending the determination of the instant application; an order setting aside and discharging the order of the CCPT made on March 30 in this present suit.
“An order of the Honourable tribunal striking out the suit for want of jurisdiction by the tribunal, and for such further order or other orders as this Honourable Tribunal may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
In his six grounds enumerated, Agoro argued that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit as the claimants lacked the competence to institute the action.
The tribunal had, on June 20, granted Onifade’s reliefs in an application seeking for a leave to amend his earlier originating summons and deem it to have been properly filed.
The lawyer, in another originating summons, is suing the firm, the operators of DStv and Gotv, for N10 million damages.
Onifade, in the amended originating summons dated June 17 but filed June 20, also sought the order of the tribunal directing and mandating MultiChoice to adopt a pay-as-you-view model of billing for all its products and services forthwith.
In the judgement delivered on Tuesday, the tribunal ordered Multichoice to provide its audited financial statement report of 2021 to the tribunal by September 8 to ascertain the financial status of the company to enable it determine the fine to impose for disobedience to the tribunal order of March 30 .
The tribunal, on 30 March, granted the ex-parte application directing parties to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the whole suit.
But MultiChoice disregarded the restraining order by going ahead to increase the price of its products and services.
The tribunal also held in its Tuesday judgment that conduct of the 1st defendant did not amount to market dominance as Nigeria is a free market economy.
The tribunal also the claimant could prove a case of exploitation in line with the relevant laws, consequently throwing out his request of compensation.