Consumer Protection Council Moves Against DStv to Enforce Consumers’ Rights

In an effort to checkmate an apparent obstruction of the on-going investigation into the operations of the Digital Satellite Television (DStv) by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), officers of the Council on Thursday carried out an enforcement exercise on the Lagos Office of the pay-media outfit, in line with relevant sections of the Council’s enabling law.

The enforcement exercise, led by the Council’s Director of Legal Services, Emmanuel Ataguba, came on the heels of alleged attempts by DStv officials to obstruct the course of investigation into the company’s operations.

CPC, in line with one of its mandates to provide redress for consumer abuse, commenced investigation into the operations of DStv based on a barrage of complaints of alleged consumer rights violations against the company.

Mr Ataguba argued that the Council took the step in accordance with Section 15 of the organisation’s enabling law which empowers it to “open and examine whilst on the premises any container or package” which could help the course of its investigation as well as “examine any book, document or other records found on the premises” that may contain any information relevant to the enforcement of its Act.

The Council’s legal Director, in a media statement asserted that “the CPC commenced investigative sittings into the operations of Multichoice Nigeria, the franchise owners of DStv on Friday, July 31, 2015. This followed a barrage of consumer complaints alleging wide-range abuse of subscribers’ rights. These include poor quality of service such as incessant disruption of service without compensation, wrongful disconnection of service during subsisting subscriptions, decoder swap irregularities and poor redress mechanism and customer service.

“The inaugural sitting provided a four-man DStv team the opportunity to respond to questions from the CPC investigating panel, and was adjourned for the DStv team to provide more documents. Since then, subsequent sittings of the CPC investigating panel have suffered abrupt adjournments and disruptions at the instance of Multichoice Nigeria” he stated.

According to him, “the disruptions started with a letter received on Tuesday, August 25, 2015, from Multichoice Nigeria acknowledging the CPC request for additional information and asked for a six-week extension for the continuation of the investigation, claiming that the notice of the summons was short. The CPC declined the six-week extension request, countering the short notice claim of Multichoice Nigeria, insisting that its representatives at the first sitting of the investigation were constructively put on notice to produce additional documents. In the interest of justice, the CPC granted a postponement for two weeks to Thursday, September 10, 2015.”

He disclosed further: “Curiously, the resumed sitting on Thursday, September 10, 2015, was greeted by another request by Multichoice Nigeria to be allowed to have legal representation at the sitting, forcing the CPC investigating panel to, once more, adjourn sitting. On that fateful day, the Managing Director of the firm, John Ugbe, led an eight-man team to the resumed sitting, wanting to appear as a group before the panel. This was turned down by the panel, which insisted that the summons sent to the company conveyed specific invitation to its Head of Operations and Customer Care, as well as the Head of Regulatory Affairs. Faced with the insistence of the panel not to change its course of investigation, the Managing Director of Multichoice Nigeria requested that the company would wish that its officers have legal representation. This was duly acceded to by the panel.”

Mr Ataguba pointed out that “Surprisingly, after being obliged almost all its requests in the interest of fairness and justice, including the request for legal representation, the DStv team comprising the Managing Director, John Ugbe, and the Regulatory Affairs Manager, Gozie Onumonu, appeared before the panel on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 without the legal counsel, and declined to submit to the panel necessary documents needed for the investigation.

“Initially, the company gave its reason for not submitting the documents as fear of its competitors having knowledge of its database, which was first on the list of documents requested. It later changed its reason for refusal to the privacy rights of its subscribers. Despite assurances that documents requested would be treated as strictly confidential as the CPC is a regulator and not a competitor, and that the subscriber base was fundamental to the ongoing investigation, the company still declined to submit relevant documents.

“The aforementioned action of Multichoice Nigeria has left the CPC with no other option than to do everything within the law to ensure that consumers are saved the agony of an endless wait for the conclusion of the ongoing investigation. This is more so that as the CPC continues to contend with the numerous requests of Multichoice Nigeria, the consumer issues that necessitated this investigation have remained unresolved” he added.