Wednesday, May 7, 2014

MultiChoice's GOtv and China's StarTimes in Kenya dragged to court in class action suit for not carrying free-to-air, public access TV channels.

MultiChoice's GOtv pay-TV service and StarTimes' pay-TV service in Kenya is now being sued and dragged to court in a massive class action suit brought by the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) following the final warning from the consumer watchdog organisation in April that blocked free-to-air (FTA) public access TV channels on their bouquets needs to be restored.

It has not happened, and now Cofek is taking MultiChoice's GOtv, China's StarTimes and two other smaller operators to court to try and get monetary compensation for thousands of pay-TV subscribers in the East African country.

Cofek demands that Kenya's broadcasting regulator, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) enforce the regulations that mandate that operators like StarTimes and MultiChoice carry at least five local free-to-air TV channels.

Cofek also wants thousands of pay-TV subscribers to be compensated for the ongoing time period that they have been blocked from receiving public TV channels such as NTV, Citizen and KTN.

Cofek wants the court to issue an order compelling the pay-TV operators to "compensate affected pre-paid subscribers by way of either refunds and/or credit equivalent to the period the local free-to-air channels have not been relayed".

The Consumer Federation of Kenya is fed-up with terrible pay-TV subscription services from MultiChoice and StarTimes, saying that Kenyan pay-TV subscribers are simply not getting what they're forced to pay for.

Cofek says pay-TV operators like MultiChoice and StarTimes sold GOtv and StarTimes set-top boxes (STBs) on the prmise that they would broadcast free-to-air TV channels, but have broken their promise.

"Consumers who purchased the set-top boxes and paid for the services cannot be allowed to suffer for errors committed by the Communications Authority of Kenya and the service providers," says Cofek.

The blocked FTA channels happened because neither StarTimes nor MultiChoice Africa had valid and proper retransmission contracts in place nor the necessary permission to broadcast these channels.

In April the Supreme Court of Kenya ordered MultiChoice, StarTimes and the two other smaller pay-TV operators in Kenya to immediately cease broadcasting the FTA TV channels from Nation Media Group, Standard Media Group and Royal Media Services.

Because no deals and contracts could yet be signed with the TV stations, the pay-TV operators are not able to carry those TV channels and are in transgression of Kenya's pay-TV broadcasting regulations.

MultiChoice runs the DStv and GOTV satellite and terrestrial pay-TV services; China's StarTimes is also the backer of StarSat in South Africa.