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MultiChoice opposes reduction in DStv subscription
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MultiChoice opposes reduction in DStv subscription

Mfonobong Akpan

A Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed May 21, 2015 to rule on an application filed in objection to the suit seeking to restrain MultiChoice Nigeria Limited from increasing subscription fees on the Digital Satelite television being operated by it.

Two Lagos-based legal practitioners, Osasuyi Adebayo and Oluyinka Oyeniji, had filed the class action on behalf of themselves and all other DStv subscribers across the country.

The plaintiffs were seeking an order of the court restraining MultiChoice from implementing the 20 per cent increment on DStv subscription rate which began on April 1, 2015.

They also want the court to compel the National Broadcasting Commission to regulate the activities of MultiChoice so as to prevent what they described as arbitrary increment in subscription rates.

They specifically want an implementation of the pay-per-view scheme in Nigeria, whereby subscribers would only pay for programmes they watched, as is being done in other parts of the world where MultiChoice operates.

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But MultiChoice, through its lawyer, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), filed a preliminary objection, urging the court to decline jurisdiction and discountenance the reliefs being sought by the plaintiffs.

Canvassing argument at the Tuesday’s proceeding, Onigbanjo maintained that the plaintiffs had no cause of action, adding that a court did not have the power to regulate the price of services that a business offered its customers.

He pointed the attention of the court to MultiChoice’s conditions or terms of agreement, especially clauses 40 and 41, stating that, “MultiChoice Nigeria may, from time to time, change the fees payable to MultiChoice Nigeria for the MultiChoice Service by way of general amendment.”

Onigbanjo said, “My Lord, the country, Nigeria, operates a free market economy; neither the government nor the court can regulate prices. How do you now say, for instance, that one bread is more expensive than the other and then ask the court to order the baker of the more expensive bread to go out of the market?”

Onigbanjo argued further that there was no existing law in Nigeria empowering the NBC to regulate the prices of services that satellite television operators in the country offered their customers.

Justice C.J. Aneke adjourned till May 21 to rule on the objection.

Earlier at the proceeding, counsel for the plaintiffs, Yemi Salma, had reminded the court that there was a pending application for committal filed against the Managing Director and the Public Relations Officer of MultiChoice, Mr. John Ugbe and Caroline Oghuma, respectively.

Salma said the said committal application asking the court to jail Ugbe and Oghuma for allegedly disobeying an order of the court should be taken first before any other thing on Tuesday.