South African digital satellite television company, Multichoice, has defended its decision to increase DSTV subscription rates in Nigeria, saying neither the country nor its courts, has the powers to regulate its prices.
The ruling on the objection by Multichoice Nigeria Limited against an application seeking to stop the price increase has been scheduled for Thursday, May 21, 2015 at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Two Lagos-based lawyers, Oluyinka Oyeniji and Osasuyi Adebayo, had initiated a class action on behalf of millions of Nigerians who criticised the new subscription rates as exploitative and insensitive.
The duo had sought the order of the court to stop MultiChoice or its agents from implementing the 20 per cent hike in the fees charged subscribers for using the service effective April 1, 2015.
The plaintiffs equally asked the court to compel the National Broadcasting Commission to take steps to monitor and regulate MultiChoice operations in Nigerian to ensure that it does not hike their fees arbitrarily.
The two applicants said they were expecting the NBC to ensure that they compel DSTV to deal with Nigerians the same way DSTV deals with other subscribers in other parts of the continent where MultiChoice operates, by ensuring that the pay-per-view scheme was introduced in the country.
This arrangement, they argued, would ensure that Nigerian subscribers to DSTV would only pay for programmes actually watched, as is the case in South Africa.
However, in objecting to the application, counsel to MultiChoice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), urged the court to deny the plaintiffs their demands and discountenance their pleas.
According to Mr. Onigbanjo, apart from the plaintiffs not having any good cause of action through their application, he also reminded the court that it did not have the legal authority to regulate what the company decides to charge its customers for its services.
The lawyer drew the court’s attention to clauses 40 and 41 in his client’s terms or conditions of service, stating: “Multichoice Nigeria may, from time to time, change the fees payable to Multichoice Nigeria for the Multichoice Service by way of general amendment.”
As a country operating a free market economy, Mr. Onigbanjo said, neither the Nigerian government nor the court has the power to regulate the prices for its services.
He noted that at the moment, Nigeria does not have an existing law that empowers the NBC to monitor and regulate the prices for services offered by satellite television operators.
To enable the court rule on the objection, Justice C.J. Aneke therefore adjourned further sitting till May 21.