Consumer Rights: CPC Sanctions MultiChoice Africa

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After an extensive investigation, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has substantiated allegations of violations of consumer rights by MultiChoice Nigeria Limited in the provision of its Digital Satellite Broadcast Television (DStv) service.

Consequently, the Council has issued far-reaching orders, including suspension of service when consumers are away; release of free-to-air channels, even when subscription expires; compensation across board to consumers for lost viewing time, introduction of local toll free lines; and reasonable equitable spread of popular sports channels, among others.

The multinational pay-media company is also required to present written assurances in line with Section 10 of the Council’s enabling law that it will not engage in any conduct which is detrimental to the interest of consumers.

In the same vein, the company shall for 18 months from the date of the orders, subject its processes to the Council’s inspection to ensure compliance with the directives contained in the orders.

During the course of the investigation, the Council observed that the company’s billing system, whereby “billing is not contemporaneous with the provision of service” was not in the best interest of consumers and therefore ordered MultiChoice to install a billing system that ensures billing starts with the provision of service

The pay-television company was also ordered to within 90 days provide across board compensation to its subscribers, considering the fact that many of them have 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.

Similarly, the company was also directed by CPC to within 180 days adopt a “technology that supports suspension of service when subscribers are otherwise unable to enjoy their service on account of being away for a limited period of time”, provided such a request for suspension of service is done for a period of between 7 to 14 days and not more than twice in a year with a 72-hour notice to MultiChoice.

On non-availability of popular channels in certain bouquets, the Council ordered the firm to within 90 days ensure “a reasonably equitable spread of popular sports and other channels hitherto concentrated in its premium bouquet over all available bouquets”.

MultiChoice was ordered to keep local and free-to-air channels open so that subscribers would have the opportunity of watching these channels, even when their subscriptions have expired.

In order to aid easy and fast access to the company by subscribers who wish to make complaints or enquiries, CPC directed MultiChoice not only to maintain local toll-free telephone access lines for its call centres, but should also ensure the call centres operate for longer hours during public holidays and weekends.

MultiChoice was also directed to formulate within 90 days a written compensation policy which should “outline amongst other things, the procedure for compensating subscribers for injury they suffer on account of MultiChoice conduct and take into consideration not just viewing time lost, but inconveniences suffered by subscribers”.

The agency also directed MultiChoice to “develop a Customer Care Manual which shall contain mechanisms to address customer complaints in an accurate, friendly, timely, efficient, courteous and honest manner”.

It was also directed to ensure that the list of all its accredited dealers and installers and their details be freely given to its customers at the point of subscription and also made available on its website and other information channels.

In addition, the pay-media company is not only to ensure these accredited dealers and installers carry certified means of identification issued by it, subscribers must also be periodically educated on the means of identification, while it should also reasonably and adequately compensate subscribers where they experience loss of signal on account of faulty, poor or unprofessional installation by agents of MultiChoice.

On the pay-television firm’s agreements with its subscribers, the Council disclosed that several provisions of the Service Level Agreement and the Terms and Conditions of Subscription signed on by subscribers were found to be grossly unfair, unjust and one-sided, directing that such provisions should be expunged, re-drafted and submitted to the Council.

All the orders, which have already been served on MultiChoice, are effective, not later than 90 days from their receipt.

Commenting, the Council’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, expressed optimism that compliance with these reforms would bring about a new dawn for Nigerian consumers, who would henceforth enjoy value for money in their engagement with the company.

Mrs. Atoki reiterated the Council’s commitment towards sanitising the nation’s market-place for the benefit of consumers, assuring that no stone would be left un-turned to ensure it is no longer business as usual and shoddy service delivery becomes a thing of the past in the country.

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