By: Temidayo Akinsuyi
The Federal Government has asked MultiChoice to suspend its planned increase in tariff which will take effect from September 1, saying it is hostile to Nigerians who are currently going through harsh economic conditions.
The government also said the company did not consult with it before the decision was made, saying it only read about the increase in the media like every other Nigerian.
MultiChoice had, last week, announced increment in the prices of DStv and GOtv subscriptions for the second time in less than four months.
Giving reasons for its upward review of prices, the company cited factors such as inflation, operations, the mandatory increase in Value Added Tax (VAT), and devaluation of the naira.
The company, in a statement to subscribers, said that from Tuesday, September 1, 2020, MultiChoice would effect its new price regime as follows: DSTV Premium will move from N16, 200 to N18, 400; Compact Plus from N10, 925 to N12, 400; Compact from 6,975 to 7,900, and for users of GOtv Max, they will have to pay the sum N3, 600 from 3,280.
One of the texts read: “Dear customer, please be advised of a price adjustment on your DStv Premium package from September 1. Your new monthly subscription will be N18, 400.”
Speaking exclusively with Daily Independent, Armstrong Idachaba, the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), said while it had written to MultiChoice to suspend the tariff, it had also fixed a meeting with their management for Monday to discuss the rationale behind the increases.
“In business, especially in a liberal economy, market operators try to fix their prices according to the dictates of the market.
However, it is the job of the regulator to ensure that whatever services are offered meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people in a way that consumers are protected.
“With regards to broadcasting, there is nowhere in the Act of the commission which gives us the power to fix prices. I am told but have not confirmed that the Telecommunications Act gives the telecom regulator, the NCC, the power to determine prices.”
Speaking further, he said while the NBC does not have the powers to fix prices for the operators, it has the powers to call them to order if it discovers that they are exploiting Nigerians.
He explains: “We have no provision to regulate the prices that those who offer broadcast services fix but if, in the course of fixing prices, we find out that it is very exploitative and injurious to the consumers, we have the power to call them to order, which we have done severally”.
“On many occasions, we have told them not to increase the price or suspend price increase. But usually the argument they give is that there are fluctuations in the value of the naira.
“Before the latest increase, there was an increase but they said it was due to the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT). So, they added the new VAT rates to their existing charges.
“Even at that time, we were at the National Assembly when the House of Reps requested that they should revert to the old prices which we directed them but they said if they had to do that, then they would not be paying VAT”.
“We are therefore surprised that without further consultation, immediately after that, they now announced a price increase citing prevailing fluctuations in the economy, value of the naira, and cost of doing business.
“We have written to them today because they didn’t consult with us before they did that. We only read it in the news.
“It is only today that they forwarded a corresponding letter to us, meaning that they have taken their decisions but are merely notifying us.”
He said aside from MultiChoice, StarTimes’ management had also been summoned to explain why they decided on price increases at a time Nigerians are going through tough times.
“We have told them to suspend it until we meet them. We are meeting with them next week Monday. They and StarTimes will have to come and explain to us why they have to increase prices at this time that Nigeria is going through economic challenges”.
“I think it is hostile to the interest of the consumers. Our final positions will be known when we meet with them Monday”.