Court upholds DStv's 20 % increment on subscription

By The Rainbow
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A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, resolved that Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) has the right to increase its subscription rate which it did last month. The presiding Judge, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke struck out a suit filed by some aggrieved subscribers challenging the outfit’s recent increment of 20% on subscription.

Justice  Aneke, in a ruling, upheld the preliminary objection filed by Multi-Choice, and ruled that the suit amounted to an abuse of court process.

The judge rejected an argument by the plaintiffs that Multi-Choice should not be given right of audience having failed to abide by an earlier ex-parte order of the court restraining the company from implementing the increment.

The aggrieved subscribers: Messrs Osasuyi Adebayo and Oluyinka Oyeniji, who are also lawyers, had filed the class action on behalf of themselves and all other DStv subscribers across the country. The plaintiffs had sought an order of the court restraining Multi-Choice from implementing the 20 per cent increment on DStv subscription rate which began on April 1, 2015.

The presiding Judge said that the court was bound to entertain arguments from all parties before it, irrespective of the alleged violation of the court order. He further ruled that the suit disclosed no reasonable cause of action, as the plaintiffs were not under any obligation to continue to subscribe to the services of Multi-Choice in the face of the increment.

He subsequently upheld Multi-Choice's argument that the suit failed to comply with mandatory provisions of Sections 97 and 98 of the Sherrifs and Civil Processes Act. The sections stipulate that a writ to be served outside jurisdiction must be concurrently issued. The plaintiffs, through their counsel, Mr Yemi Salma, had urged the court to discountenance such argument, as Section 19 of the Federal High Court Act, had clearly defined the jurisdiction of the court to be one within Nigeria.

The plaintiffs specifically urged the court to impress it on the NBC to be alive to its statutory responsibility by ensuring that Multi-Choice is compelled to implement the pay-per-view scheme in Nigeria. They said that with that subscribers would only pay for programmes they watched, as was done in other parts of the world where Multi-Choice operated.

But Multi-Choice, through its lawyer, Moyosore Onigbanjo, argued 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 was offering to its customers. It said that neither the government nor the court could regulate prices in Nigeria, being a country that operates a free-market economy.

Multi Choice also said that under its conditions of agreement, especially clauses 40 and 41, it was free to change the fees payable by subscribers for the services it was offering them.

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