Consumer protection tribunal fines MultiChoice following tariff hike

Competition and Consumer Protection (CPC) tribunal has fined MultiChoice for failing to file processes in a matter challenging its recent tariff hike. The three-man tribunal, led by Thomas Okosun, awarded N100,000 against the payTV company, while directing it to file the processes within 21 days.

Thomas Onifade, a legal practitioner, sued the company on behalf of himself and the coalition of Nigerian consumers. The other defendant in the suit is the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).

Onifade asked the tribunal to restrain MultiChoice from hiking subscription fees for its services and other products on April 1, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated and filed on March 29.

The tribunal acceded to Onifade’s ex parte motion and ordered parties to maintain “status quo antebellum” (to maintain the situation as it existed before).

However, MultiChoice discountenanced the order and went ahead to increase the prices for its products.

The company, in its application dated July 13, challenged the tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the suit.

MultiChoice’s lawyer, Jamiu Agoro, cited a procedural error bordering on jurisdiction. Agoro said the claimant (Onifade) ought to have filed his suit first with the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), after which he may appear before the tribunal if dissatisfied with the outcome.

“Before this matter can come, section 47(2) of the act that governs this tribunal states that the matter must have gone through the commission (FCCPC). So the matter can only come to the tribunal if they are not satisfied with the decision of the commission,” Agoro said.

On his part, Onifade said he had done so, when he lodged a complaint at the FCCPC in May 2020. “Where the commission refuses to act, the tribunal has powers to assume jurisdiction,” he said.

Onifade therefore prayed the tribunal to commit MultiChoice to prison for “willful disobedience of the order of this honourable tribunal granted on March 30 2022.

He also sought an order “to show cause why MultiChoice should not be made to pay 10% of its annual turnover for contravention or failure to, comply with an interim order of this honourable tribunal.”

However, Agoro submitted that his client did not disobey the tribunal.

The tribunal has adjourned till July 25 for further hearing.