The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, adjourned ruling in the matter between an Abuja-based lawyer, Festus Onifade, Coalition of Nigerian Consumers, and pay TV service provider, MultiChoice Nigeria, Limited, till Monday.
This was the outcome at a sitting, which dragged till late on Thursday
At the hearing, MultiChoice asked the tribunal to decline to hear the suit challenging the increase of the subscription fees for its television services on grounds of jurisdiction.
Onifade and the Coalition of Nigeria Consumers had dragged MultiChoice, the operators of DStv and GOtv platforms, to the Tribunal following the announcement by the company in March 2022 that the subscription rates for the various bouquets on its platforms will go up on 1 April 2022.
In the suit in which the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council is the second defendant, Onifade prayed the tribunal for an order restraining MultiChoice from increasing the subscription rates for its services and other products pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated and filed on March 30.
The claimant also asked the Tribunal to make an order directing MultiChoice to adopt pay -as- you -the view subscription model for its pay-TV services.
The Tribunal had in its ruling on the ex-parte application on 30 March directed the parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the whole suit.
Onifade had during the hearing of the suit on April 11, indicated that he had filed a written address and contempt proceedings against MultiChoice for allegedly disregarding the tribunal’s order not to increase its subscription rates made on March 30.
At the resumed hearing of the suit on Thursday, the tribunal took all pending applications.
Key was the application by MultiChoice challenging the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to hear the suit.
Barrister Jamiu Agoro, counsel to the pay television service provider, argued that the Tribunal cannot hear the suit because, by Section 47 of its Act, it can only listen to appeals on matters that have been decided on by the FCCPC.
Agoro argued that if the claimant feels aggrieved by the decision of MultiChoice, he should have approached the FCCPC with his grievance. He added that it is after the Commission has ruled on the matter that he can approach the Tribunal if he is not satisfied with the ruling.
Agoro also argued that the application for contempt filed against it by Onifade is incompetent because it was not personally served on the company.
The company also argued that while the preservative order was made on 30 March 2022 when the order it ought to preserve had already been perfected and completed.
It, therefore, said “granting the application will set a dangerous precedent that a party could be penalized for an order already completed.”
The company also argued that it cannot be held in contempt for an order which it has already asked the Tribunal to set aside.”
While disagreeing with the submissions of MultiChoice lawyer, Onifade urged the Tribunal to grant requests of the claimants to preserve its integrity and engender confidence in consumers across the country about its capability to protect them.
However, the Tribunal was forced to adjourn as the MultiChoice lawyer said he is not ready to reply to the originating summons filed by the claimant. Agoro had told the Tribunal that he thought only the various applications were scheduled for hearing on Thursday.
But the three-member tribunal headed by Thomas Okosun said there was an order for counsels to the parties to argue on all the applications and the originating summons at Thursday’s hearing.
Consequently, the Tribunal said its ruling/decision on the applications taken on Thursday, will be contained in the judgment to be delivered in the case after an argument on the originating summons that was adjourned to Monday, 25 July.