Nigerian subscribers and Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) owned by Multichoice Limited, has been at daggers drawn following a tariff hike by the latter. However, in spite of the court order restraining the hike, the subscribers have vowed to bring the organisation to its knees.
Rilwan Ojo, a DSTV subscriber hoping to enjoy good programmes on TV is full of sorry tales about the organisation. “I witness a lot of disappointments, repeated outdated programmes, dwindling services, abrupt disruption of signals among others, and to add salt to injury, there comes tariff increase by the inconsiderate company. They disparage African culture and states by showing worst areas in Africa, showing in their silly documentaries issues that only portray Africans as sad, violent, hungry, dirty and backward. Yet, they milked us dry as we patronise them.
“If only all subscribers can unite to boycott DSTV for a month in Nigeria, we won’t be losing anything; after all, we were existing before they got to Nigeria. We can do with our local stations which will sit up and churn out good programmes,” he said.
Recently, MultiChoice, owners of DStv and GOtv, announced a 20 percent price increase for all its satellite pay television bouquets in Nigeria to take effect from April 1, 2015. The subscription fee of DStv’s premium, compact plus, compact, access, family and extra view bouquets are to be increased, likewise the price for GOtv Plus and GOtv bouquet.
With the increase, the DStv premium rose to N13, 980 from N11, 650, a N2, 330 increment; while the DStv family bouquet rises from N3, 000 to N3, 600, a N600 increment. DStv compact plus subscribers will pay N9, 420 instead of N7, 850, while DStv Compact users will pay N6, 000 per month, up from N5,000. In the same vein, DStv access now costs N1800 up from N1, 500, while DStv extra view subscribers will no longer pay N1, 800 but N2, 100.
For GOtv Plus users, N1, 500 will no longer be sufficient but N1800 will do, while GOtv bouquet users will now pay N1, 200, from N1, 000
This increase generated lots of criticism and backlash from subscribers who says they never enjoy money they pay for subscription.
A subscriber, Sunday Alade, who felt disappointed with DSTV level of operation in the country said “Multichoice is a fraud; they can’t operate like this in other countries other than Nigeria because there is no consumer protection law; they cut you off when your subscription is yet to elapse and majority of their sales agents lack human relation.
They feel they are doing you a favour by patronising them. Imagine, they have not added any value since they began operations in Nigeria. Sometimes, there will be no signal for two to three days without any explanation or apology to subscribers.
“The company feels we are at their mercy because of their monopoly foisted on us by the government. While other countries within their operational base are on pay-per-view scheme where subscribers pay for only programmes watched, Nigerian subscribers are forced to pay at expiration whether used or not. In fact, we are paying for their inefficiency,” he said.
Furious subscribers had dragged Multichoice to court over the tariff hike in spite of the poor services, and the court restrained them.
In response to subscribers’ plea, a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered Multi Choice Nigeria Limited, operator of the Digital Satellite Television, popularly known as DStv, to hold action on its planned subscription fee increment.
Justice C.J. Aneke, who made the interim order last week, held that it would subsist till the determination of a lawsuit contesting the legality of DStv’s newly introduced rates and increase in tariffs payable by all its subscribers in the country.
Two legal practitioners in Lagos, Osasuyi Adebayo and Oluyinka Oyeniji, had approached the court challenging what they described as arbitrary increment in DStv subscription rates imposed on its customers.
The action, they said, followed an announcement by Multi Choice in March that it was increasing DStv subscription fees by 20 per cent on all viewing plans effective from April 1, 2015.
The company had reportedly argued that the price increase was necessary for it to be able to continue to offer the best in local and international entertainment to its subscribers.
But the plaintiffs, who considered the move as illegal, filed the suit marked FHC/L/CS/404/2015, joining Multichoice Nigeria Limited and the National Broadcasting Commission as the first and second defendants respectively.
The plaintiffs, who sued for themselves and on behalf of all DStv subscribers across the country, had asked for an order, compelling NBC to enforce the pay-per-view scheme, whereby subscribers would only pay for programmes watched, as was being done in other parts of the world.
They also asked for an order of the court restraining any other individual or corporate entity from filing any other action on the subject matter to avoid multiplicity of the lawsuit.
Aneke, having granted the interim injunction as prayed by the plaintiffs, directed that the order be made public through newspapers publications.
The Judge held “That an order of interim injunction is hereby granted to the parties to maintain the status quo restraining the 1st defendant (Multichoice/DStv) from giving effect or enforcing its planned increase in cost of the different classes of viewing or programmes bouquet, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
“That an order is hereby granted certifying the plaintiffs’ claim as a class action for themselves as individual subscribers, other corporate subscribers, distributors and retailers of the 1st defendants’ services.
“That an order is hereby granted restraining any other person whether individual or corporate from instituting any other action as may be related to the action against the defendant to prevent multiplicity of lawsuits pursuant to the appointment of the plaintiffs in the class action, but may instead opt in or out of this action.”
Reacting to the suit, a subscriber Ojo Olamide told Newswatch Times that he was glad when he heard about the suit because he, among others has been thinking of what can be done to all these cheat called foreign investors. “One will not blame them much because we have a regulatory agency, Nigerian Communication Commission and Nigerian Consumer Protection Agency, which are nothing but toothless dogs of indolent people”
MultiChoice Nigeria has defended its latest DStv tariff increase in the country, saying the company has taken into account many factors.
Such factors, it said included “the impact on the subscriber, current inflation, and efficiencies effected within the company that may offset the necessity for a price increase.”
The company also said that the increase in DStv tariffs was not only in Nigeria, but also in every country where MultiChoice has its operations.
An analyst, Bob Majiri Oghene Etemiku from Benin City, found hole in the explanation of the company and said “when it continues to bill us even when our decoders are off, or when there is power outage. In other countries where it increased its tariffs last year, it was because of the low volume of patronage and that is why they introduce a pay-per-view scheme in those countries.
“Nigerians should boycott MultiChoice for other cable companies willing to give excellent services the way it is done worldwide. The Federal Government through NCC should order MultiChoice to introduce the pay-as-you-view system in Nigeria, after all, DSTV makes a lot of money from Nigeria and it therefore, must render excellent services. Otherwise let them pack and relocate.
“MultiChoice does not really have the ‘best of intentions and…commitment to Nigeria’, as it claims.”
Subscribers also complained that DSTV do not offer any free channels, ‘‘once your subscription expires, you will not be able to receive any TV signal. Initially some channels may be available free for a few hours, but with time all DSTV channels will no longer be available until you pay your subscription.’’
According to a subscriber, Aderemi Adetunji, “I paid three months subscription into the bank for compact plus. After several efforts, l was reconnected but the following day, my line was suspended. I called customer service 29 times and they kept dropping my call, and at the point of linking up, none of their representative came online. I am really disappointed with DSTV. This is a case of 419. Who pays for the service not rendered for the one week? Embarrassingly enough, I checked on my account online and noticed a deficit of N16, 141.00.
Also reacting angrily to DSTV tariff increase, another subscriber, Tizhe Michika, said “DSTV is really taking advantage of Nigerian, and trust Nigerian subscribers as they all subscribe so they will all withdraw their subscription and hook on to local channels, and then there will be a decline in customers with the increment you are
offering us. Improve your services with pay as you watch as is in South Africa, do the same in Nigeria?’’
An operator of a football viewing centre, Akinwale Ode, supported the increase on the premise that the government has not in any way provided a conducive business environment as witnessed in other countries.
We can’t blame the company which have to operate 24 hours on self provided power supply, and still have to pay power generating company for services not rendered yet the government have the effrontery to increase energy tariff and make people pay for services not enjoyed. How do we expect DSTV to make ends meet with the multiplicity of taxes, inefficient and irregular power supply and non-existing infrastructure if not spread it on their subscribers to help them bear some of the burden. For instance, I provide my own power supply to operate, yet I pay heavily to Ikeja Distribution Company for services not supplied, how do I make profit if not spread over to the consumer?
The Director-General of the Consumer Protection Council, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, stated that the absence of anti-competition law is the major reason some companies in the country can continually exploit its customers.