Monday, February 22, 2016

Nigeria slams MultiChoice for over DStv service; orders compensation, 'equitable' spread of TV channels, toll-free call centre numbers, billing system changes.

Nigeria's consumer protection body has once again slammed MultiChoice in its ongoing investigation into the satellite pay-TV platform's services ordering MultiChoice Nigeria to make massive and eye-popping service and structural product adjustments that might have far-reaching consequences for MultiChoice's DStv service elsewhere on the Africa continent.

Nigeria's ThisDay newspaper reports today that Nigeria's Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has found MultiChoice Nigeria guilty of violating consumer rights.

The CPC ordered MultiChoice Nigeria to unlock free-to-air channels to make these channels watchable on the DStv system even if people are no longer DStv subscribers and that MultiChoice should "put services on hold" when DStv subscribers are away from home and ask the company to temporarily suspend their service.

The CPC also ordered MultiChoice to provide toll-free call centre numbers to its clients; that MultiChoice Nigeria must pay DStv subscribers compensation for lost viewing time; and that popular sport and other popular channels only available on the DStv Premium package must be made available across all DStv packages as part of a "reasonable, equitable spread".

The CPC found that MultiChoice Nigeria's DStv service agreement that subscribers must sign is "grossly unfair, unjust and one-sided" and said MultiChoice needs to redraft and change it and resubmit it to the consumer protection body.

The CPC says MultiChoice Nigeria can't block people's access to free-to-air TV channels once they are no longer DStv subscribers and that the pay-TV operator must release these channels to viewers who want to keep watching free television when they no longer have a DStv subscription.

The CPC also says MultiChoice Nigeria's billing system is not in the best interest of consumers. The CPC ordered MultiChoice Nigeria to "install a billing system that ensures billing starts with the provision of service".

The CPC also ordered MultiChoice Nigeria to give DStv subscribers the option within 180 days to temoprarily suspend their subscriptions "when subscribers are otherwise unable to enjoy their service on account of being away for a limited period of time".

These "service suspensions" should be for between 7 to 14 days (a week to two weeks), and DStv subscribers should be able to make use of it twice a year with a 72-hour notice period to MultiChoice.

MultiChoice was also ordered to pay out compensation to subscribers within 90 days across the board to DStv subscribers who "over time lost legitimate and paid viewing time by its conduct of not restoring service contemporaneously after payment, as well as other instances of disruptions".

'Good TV channels for all DStv packages'
In another order that might be difficult or impossible for MultiChoice Nigeria to carry out, the CPC ordered the pay-TV operator to ensure that all DStv bouquets get an "equatable share" of sport and other good TV channels.

MultiChoice Nigeria has 90 days to "ensure a reasonably equitable spread of popular sports and other channels hitherto concentrated in its DStv Premium bouquet over all available bouquets".

The CPC also ordered MultiChoice Nigeria to set-up and maintain local, toll-free customer care telephone numbers for MultiChoice call centres - and in addition MultiChoice's call centres will have to be open and operate for longer hours during public holidays and over weekends.

MultiChoice Nigeria was also ordered to "develop a Customer Care Manual which shall contain mechanisms to address customer complaints in an accurate, friendly, timely, efficient, courteous and honest manner".

Cellular operator MTN is battling a protracted legal battle in Nigeria over a massive consumer telecommunications regulatory fine.

Last week South Africa's Truworths said it has shut down its shops in Nigeria over draconian regulations and foreign exchange controls making it virtually impossible for the South African retailer to do continue to do business in that African country.