The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Tuesday, re-affirmed its order stopping Multichoice Nigeria Limited from proceeding with its decision to increase DSTV subscription tariffs.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, warned that no step should be taken to raise subscription fees for any of the DSTV packages, pending the determination of the suit that was lodged by the Consumer Protection Council, CPC.
Justice Dimgba held that the restraining order it issued to that effect on August 20, is still extant and subsisting.
“My order is still in force and I am entitled to believe that my order is being obeyed until it is set aside”, the Judge added before he adjourned the case till September 3.
The court reactivated the order on a day Multichoice, through its lawyer, Mr. M. J. Onibanjo, applied for stay of execution, pending the hearing and determination of an appeal it entered before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.
At the resumed hearing, Onibanjo told the court that his client had gone before the appellate court to challenge the legal competence of the order against planned increment of DSTV subscription fees in Nigeria.
Among its ground of appeal, Multichoice, maintained that the court lacked the powers to restrain it from carrying out an already completed action.
It told the court that whereas the restraining order was issued on August 20, the increased subscription tariffs took effect on August 1.
Besides, it accused CPC of suppressing material facts before the court.
However, counsel to CPC, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, told the court that DSTV had continued to exploit Nigerians, regardless of the restraining order.
He told the court that Multichoice had issued a public statement that it woud not obey the order.
“In a public statement, Multichoice characterized the order of this court as an affront. It repeatedly said to subscribers that sought to renew subscription pursuant to order of this court, that it will not and has no intention of obeying the order.
“My lord this a serious issue. The Supreme Court has constantly held that subsisting order of court, whether right or wrong, must be obeyed until it is set aside.
“But here we are, with the Defendant insisting that it would never obey a valid court order,” Irukera fumed.
CPC had in a public interest suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/894/18, applied for an interim injunction restraining Multichoice Nigeria or its agents and representatives from continuing the implementation of any increase in subscription rates or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on its customers, pending the determination of the motion on notice before the court.
In a nine-paragraph affidavit that was attached to the suit, CPC, maintained that it has the constitutional responsibility to protect the welfare and interest of consumers in Nigeria.
It told the court that it had in the exercise of its statutory mandate, conducted an investigation into DSTV’s compliance with a directive it gave on February 16, 2016, following series of petitions it received on alleged unfairness, arbitrariness and excessiveness of pricing and billing systems by the cable service provider.
It said it was also reviewing other issues relating to whether DSTV‘s business practices and specific conducts were in violation of the law and rights of consumers in Nigeria.
The council decried that while its investigation and consultative engagement with Multichoice Nigeria was ongoing, DSTV, “pre-emptively and surreptitiously introduced a subscription regime which imposes increased charges and costs on Nigerian Consumers of digital satellite television service with effect from August 1, 2018”.
It stressed that unless restrained by the court, DSTV or its representative, would continue the implementation of the increased subscription rate it kicked off on August 1.
CPC argued that allowing the Defendant to proceed with its plans would render ineffective and nugatory its on-going regulatory investigation that seeks to prevent continuing exploitation of Nigerian consumers through obnoxious and exploitative billing systems and pricing regimes.
Justice Dimgba had after he had listened to the plaintiff, issued “An order of interim injunction restraining the Defendant/Respondent by itself, agents, representatives, affiliates, officers or privies, howsoever described from continuing the implementation of any increased subscription rate or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on the consumers of Defendant/Respondent’s services pending the determination of the Plaintiff/Applicant’s Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction filed in this suit”.