Thursday, February 25, 2016

'THE MENACE OF MULTICHOICE': Nigeria ramps up its hate towards MultiChoice; senate orders a probe, slams DStv service over 'unhealthy and unwholesome practices'.

The public hatred towards MultiChoice in Nigeria is building with the Nigerian senate that has now also politically spewed venomous outrage at the satellite pay-TV platform, slamming "the menace of MultiChoice" for apparent "arbitrary DStv price hikes" and calling the company out for what it calls unhealthy and "unwholesome practices".

Just days after MultiChoice Nigeria was slammed by that country's Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and ordered to effect multiple changes to its services, refund DStv subscribers and change how it structures channels in various DStv packages, the Nigerian government also slammed DStv in its senate.

The CPC in October 2015 raided MultiChoice Nigeria's head office, a subsidiary of the South African based MultiChoice Africa, and seized computers as journalists looked on.

Later in October Nigerian censorship through its National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) forced MultiChoice and Discovery Networks International to pull a transgender teen documentary series from the TLC Entertainment (DStv 172) channel which impacted the entire Africa and prevented the whole continent from seeing the show since the channel has only one feed to the continent.

In a motion tabled on Wednesday in the Nigerian senate entitled "Concern on unwholesome practices by MultiChoice Nigeria", the Nigerian government now has MultiChoice as that country's dominant pay-TV operator in its cross-hairs and said it's going to probe the operator and what it labelled "the menace of MultiChoice".

MultiChoice's Nigerian troubles follow after cellphone operator MTN was slammed with a massive fine in the West African country, and clothing retailer Truworths closed up shop over draconian regulations and foreign exchange controls it said was making it virtually impossible for the South African retailer to do continue to do business in that African country.

On Wednesday the deputy senate leader Ibu Na'Allah slammed MultiChoice Nigeria in the senate motion, saying DStv "must not be allowed to take what is not due to them irrespective of where they operate" and that "Nigerians must be protected on the way and manner people operate their business in this country".

Senator Isa Misau leading the motion on Wednesday and constantly referring to MultiChoice as "a menace", slammed MultiChoice Nigeria for refusing to adopt a pay-as-you-go model, saying MultiChoice frequently gets loads of subscriber complaints, and is abusing DStv subscribers through consumer rights' violations.

Nigeria's committees on Information and Trade and Investment were ordered to now also investigate MultiChoice Nigeria in Wednesday's motion, to have public hearings, and to report back over four weeks.

Isa Misau said MultiChoice, due to its dominance of the Nigerian satellite pay-TV market, is busy with "negative and unhealthy practices".

On Tuesday this week MultiChoice Nigeria suddenly slashed DStc Explora prices and made the English Premier League (EPL) and La Liga available to DStv Compact subscribers in that country.

On Monday Nigeria's 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.

The CPC also ordered MultiChoice to provide toll-free call centre numbers to its clients and that MultiChoice Nigeria must pay DStv subscribers compensation for lost viewing time.

The CPC said MultiChoice Nigeria must make sport and other "good channels" available on all DStv packages and not just on DStv Premium 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 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 temporarily 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".

The CPC also ordered MultiChoice Nigeria's call centres to be open and operate for longer hours during public holidays and over weekends.

The ramped up consumer body sanctions and political rhetoric against MultiChoice comes as the 4th AfricaMagic Viewers' Choice Awards (AMVCAs) is set to take place in  Lagos, Nigeria hosted by Minnie Dlamini and the Nigerian IK Osakioduwa.

The AfricaMagic Viewers' Choice Awards is an initiative by M-Net, that supplies the various AfricaMagic channels to MultiChoice's DStv, to celebrate, recognise and improve the reputation of Nigerian and African films and again has MultiChoice as one of the sponsors this year.