By Bassey Udo
Amid reports that a suit challenging its decision to hike its tariffs was dismissed in its favour, MultiChoice Nigeria Limited was on Thursday sanctioned by the Competition and Consumer Protection (CCPC) for disregarding an earlier interim order on the matter.
In March this year, Multichoice Nigeria announced its schedule to adjust its tariffs for its services with effect from April 1.
But the Coalition, led by the lawyer, filed an ex-parte motion on March 30 asking the tribunal to stop the planned tariffs hike pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The complainants said the decision to approach the tribunal was informed by the inability of the FCCPC to resolve their grievances contained in earlier petitions filed against Multichoice Nigeria in May and June 2020 to stop a previous attempt to embark on its tariffs review.
The tribunal in its ruling on the application, directed all parties in the suit to maintain “status quo antebellum.”
Despite the restraining order, Multichoice Nigeria proceeded with its decision to hike the tariffs, arguing that the process for the tariff hike had already been configured and deployed prior to the interim order.
Under the new tariffs announced by MultiChoice from April 1, DSTV subscribers were to pay N21,000 for its premium bouquet, from N18,400, while Compact Plus package attracted a new tariff of N14,250, from N12,400, while Compact package N9,000, from N7,900 per month.
Although the tribunal ruled on Tuesday that the decision by Multichoice to hike its tariffs was valid, as the powers to regulate or fix the prices of goods and services in Nigeria, reside with the president, it reprimanded the pay-TV firm for another infraction of its order.
The tribunal had ordered the Managing Director of Multichoice Nigeria to appear before it on Wednesday, September 8, with the company’s annual audited financial report for 2021 for violating the tribunal’s order made on March 30.
Also, the tribunal directed the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to expedite its investigations into the petition filed by the coalition to confirm whether MultiChoice was operating a pay-as-you-go system in South Africa and submit its findings within six months
But, on Thursday the tribunal imposed a fine of N25 million MultiChoice Nigeria Limited after accusing the company of disregarding its restraining order on tariff hike and return to status quo.
The tribunal chaired by Thomas Okosun said its earlier order for MultiChoice to produce its audited financial statement would have enabled it to determine the appropriate penalty for the contempt.
In determining the sanction, on Thursday, the tribunal said MultiChoice breached the order of 30 March and was liable to pay the N25 million fine.
Citing Section 51 of the FCCPC Act, 2018, the tribunal Chairman said, N25 million fine was an administrative penalty for contemptuous negligence over the tribunal’s order.