FG orders DSTV, GOTV subscriptions price hike

The federal government has directed MultiChoice, owners of DSTV and Gotv, to suspend its planned increase in tariff starting from September 1, because it will worsen the harsh economic conditions faced by Nigerians.

The government also said the company did not consult it before the decision was taken, saying it only read about the increase in the media like every other Nigerian.

The South Africa owned firm had, last week, announced increment in the prices of DStv and GOtv subscriptions for the second time in less than four months.

The company cited factors such as inflation, operations, the mandatory increase in Value Added Tax (VAT), and devaluation of the naira as the reasons behind the latest subscription hike.

Multichoice, in a statement to subscribers, said that from Tuesday, September 1, 2020, MultiChoice would affect 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 N6, 975 to N7,900, and for users of GOtv Max, they will have to pay the sum N3, 600 from N3,280.

The text reads: “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.”

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 price hike.

“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 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.”

Idachaba further 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, as what informed their decisions.

“We have written to them, because, they didn’t consult 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 increase 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 position will be known when we meet with them Monday