By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday, stopped Multichoice Nigeria Limited from proceeding with its decision to increase DSTV subscription tariffs.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, issued the restraining order based on a suit that was lodged by the Consumer Protection Council, CPC.
CPC had in a public interest suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/894/18, applied for an interim injunction restraining Multichoice Nigeria or its agents and representatives from continuing the implementation of any increase in subscription rates or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on its customers, pending the determination of the motion on notice before the court.
The Council further persuaded the court to accelerate hearing of the matter.
In a nine-paragraph affidavit that was attached to the suit, CPC, maintained that it has the constitutional responsibility to protect the welfare and interest of consumers in Nigeria.
It told the court that it had in the exercise of its statutory mandate, conducted an investigation into DSTV’s compliance with a directive it gave on February 16, 2016, following series of petitions it received on alleged unfairness, arbitrariness and excessiveness of pricing and billing systems by the cable service provider.
It said it was also reviewing other issues relating to whether DSTV‘s business practices and specific conducts were in violation of the law and rights of consumers in Nigeria.
The Council decried that while its investigation and consultative engagement with Multichoice Nigeria was ongoing, DSTV, “preemptively and surreptitiously introduced a subscription regime which imposes increased charges and costs on Nigerian Consumers of digital satellite television service with effect from 1st August, 2018”.
It stressed that unless restrained by the court, DSTV or its representative, would continue the implementation of the increased subscription rate it kicked off on August 1.
CPC argued that allowing the Defendant to proceed with its plans would render ineffective and nugatory its on-going regulatory investigation that seeks to prevent continuing exploitation of Nigerian consumers through obnoxious and exploitative billing systems and pricing regimes.
After he had listened to submissions from counsel to the plaintiff, Justice Dimgba who is sitting as the vacation Judge, restrained DSTV from taking further action on its plan to increase its subscription fees.
Specifically, the court issued “An order of interim injunction restraining the Defendant/Respondent by itself, agents, representatives, affiliates, officers or privies, howsoever described from continuing the implementation of any increased subscription rate or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on the consumers of Defendant/Respondent’s services pending the determination of the Plaintiff/Applicant’s Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction filed in this suit”.
The court further adjourned hearing on the substantive suit till August 28.