A Law firm, Onifade and associates has petitioned the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCP), Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), House of Representatives over what it described as an abuse of power of dominance in the market and impending price hike by Multichoice/DSTV in Nigeria.
The firm in a petition addressed to the Director-General of FCCP dated 19th May 2020, signed by Festus Onifade, implored the Commission to be persuaded by the provision of Section 88(3) of FCCP ACT 2018 to prevail on the Multichoice Nigeria limited owners of DStv and GOtv satellite cable to suspend its planned price increment as it would amount to anti-competitive act, arbitrariness and against the welfare of the Consumers.
Onifade associates also called on the Commission to invoke its power under the same Act to regulate the price as this would be in the overall public interest.
Adding: “We are confident that the Commission as a strong regulator will show courage in view of the novel provisions in Federal Consumer Protection Act, 2018 in liberating Our Client and Nigerians consumers from the oppressive power of dominance in the market space of DStv and GOtv services in Nigeria by keeping the service within affordable means.
The petition reads in part: “We are solicitors to Coalition of Nigeria Consumers (hereinafter called “Our Client”) on whose firm instructions we make the following representation”
“Our Client is an umbrella body of Consumers which largely consumed products and services offered by the Respondent (Multichoice Nigeria Limited), across cities, towns and villages in Nigeria”
“Multichoice Nigeria limited provides Digital Satellite Television services on (DStv and GOtv) platforms, with about 14.56 million Subscribers on across Africa, Nigeria having 40% of this numbers as at 2019 making it largest and leading satellite Tv service provider in Nigeria”
“You will recall that Multichoice Nigeria Limited had recently announced that it will be increasing its rates for DStv and GOtv Subscribers from 1st June 2020, citing the increase in VAT rate as the reason for this imminent price increment”
“It must be pointed out that the company would by this announcement be increasing its rate for the third time in the last five years. First in 2015, another in 2018 and now 2020”.
“This is in spite of repeated outcries by Nigerians and court injunctions restraining Multichoice from increasing their rate on those previous occasions which were blatantly disobeyed”
“Our Client and many other concerned Nigerians are particularly worried at the insensitive nature of Multichoice Nigeria Limited who despite the global economic downturn and the prevailing CORONA VIRUS crisis seem impervious to the sensitivity of its customers”
“Sir, as you have notice that national lockdown and government ‘Sit at home’ order has directly increased the patronage for the product and services of the providers DStv and GOtv without a commensurate increase in contents particularly in view of the suspension of world major sporting live events and TV drama series ect; and yet Consumers are left with no other option not only to pay but with imminent increase”
“Our Client also noted with grave concerns that apart from the pattern of (CONTENT RECYCLING) of repetitive films and programs, many local Tv Channels which ought to be free are paid for by Nigeria Consumers as oppose to the practice of enjoying free local Tv Channels in other parts of the world”
“Worst still is that with a monthly premium subscription rate of about N16, 000 Our Client and Nigeria Consumers are greatly surcharged. This is because, with an average of 720 hours per month, an average view is about 6 hours per day. If usage is converted to an hourly basis this same amount will give a consumer four months value. Hence, we advocate ‘Pay as you use”
“Sadly, Nigeria with over 40% of its Subscribers in Africa; Nigerians and Our Client, in particular, continue to groan under the repressive incessant price hike because of the dominant position Multichoice Nigeria Limited occupies where it determines market prices unilaterally without recourse to it closest competitor (StarTimes) or consideration for the welfare of its Customers”
“We believe strongly that Multichoice Nigeria Limited is in gross violation of the provision of Section 72 of Federal Consumer and Competition Law 2018 which amounted to ABUSE OF POWER OF DOMINANCE”
“For the avoidance of doubt we reproduce the said provision in part; the abuse of a dominant position is prohibited under Section 72 of the FCCP Act such abuse occurs when an undertaking in a dominant position:
(I.) Charges an excessive price to the detriment of consumers;
(II.) Refuses to give a competitor access to an essential facility when it is economically feasible to do so;
(III.) Engages in an exclusionary act if the anticompetitive effect of that act outweighs its technological efficiency and other pro-competitive gains;
(IV.) Engages in any of the following exclusionary acts such as
(a.) Inducing a supplier or customer not to deal with a competitor
“In view of the above, we implore the Commission to be persuaded by the provision of Section 88(3) of FCCP ACT 2018 to prevail on the Multichoice Nigeria limited owners of DStv and GOtv satellite cable to suspend its planned price increment as it would amount to anti-competitive act, arbitrariness and against the welfare of the Consumers. And also the Commission should invoke its power under this Act to regulate the price as this would be in the overall public interest”.
“We are confident that the Commission as a strong regulator will show courage in view of the novel provisions in Federal Consumer Protection Act, 2018 in liberating Our Client and Nigerians consumers from the oppressive power of dominance in the market space of DStv and GOtv services in Nigeria by keeping the service within affordable means.
Our Client can reach through the undersigned Counsel on 08036848077.”