MultiChoice Nigeria Limited, owners of the Digital Satellite Broadcast Television (DStv), has been ordered by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to make compensations to its subscribers within 90 days, after the council established allegations of violations of consumer rights against the broadcaster.
The council specifically, ordered DStv to henceforth put services on hold whenever consumers are away, introduce local toll free lines as well as reasonable equitable spread of popular sports channels and also to release free-to-air channels even at the expiration of subscription, as across board compensation to its subscribers, among others.
The directions followed various allegations of viewing rights violations by consumers. The council said investigations into the allegations were substantiated, considering the fact that many consumers 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.
Satellite Television stations are under obligations to unlock the free to air channels as part of broadcasting agreement signed. But this had been in breach as DStv had often refused to release the free-to-air channels, which should include local television stations whenever current subscription expired.
DStv was also directed by the Council 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.
The CPC, in an unprecedented regulatory onslaught, further directed DStv to subject its processes to the Council’s inspection for 18 months from the date of the orders, to ensure compliance with the directives contained in the orders.
The Council observed that during the course of their investigations, the company’s billing system, which 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 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.”
Also, 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.
The company 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”.
MultiChoice was further directed 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 DStv’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.
The CPC reiterated its commitment towards sanitizing 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.
This may henceforth be the dawn of a new era for Nigerian consumers, who would henceforth enjoy value for money in their engagement with the company.