Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Multi-Fraudulent Activities of Multichoice in Nigeria

John Ugbe

Nigeria is a country where foreigners come to enjoy to its fullest even to the detriment of the citizens. This seems to have encouraged the dismal manner Nigerians are treated by many of the so-called multinational companies that normally infringe on the rights of their Nigerian customers without relevant government agencies or organisations batting an eyelid. The ineffectiveness of the controlling or regulatory agencies has further emboldened these companies to continue in their bad way of relating with the people. An example is the way Multichoice, a South Africa-owned company, has been treating Nigerians with no regard.

Multichoice is the owner of DStv, the leading satellite pay TV in the country. As the oldest satellite pay TV in the country, DStv has seized this opportunity to monopolise the market, wielding monstrous power with which it is terrorising the people of Nigeria and competitors and turning a deaf ear to the many negative comments about such unsavoury practices in the Nigeria media.

Not minding the many complaints against the company, Multichoice has continued to gallop on, with sources claiming the company has compromised the integrity of those at the helm of affairs of bodies saddled with the responsibility of regulating the operations of the company, thereby empowering them more to treat the complaints of Nigerians with outmost levity.

Multichoice has proven to be the only company to add another form of business to its current one in the country without proper clearance - as applicable in Multichoice’s decision to start GOtv which can only operate on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) without the necessary authorisation to operate it. According to a petition filed to the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) some years back, GOtv has no legal right to transmit digital broadcasting in Nigeria using DVB-T technology. The petitioners through a letter to the NBC questioned the right of GOtv providing Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) services in Nigeria. They stated that such services can only be provided for now by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), which is the only organ licensed by the NBC to provide such service in Nigeria.

This was further confirmed the Minister of Information, LabaranMaku, who said that NTA is the only organisation approved by the Federal Government to provide DTT service; thus meaning NTA is the public signal distributor licensed in the country. Simply put, no DTT licence has been granted to any other service provider except the one given to NTA. This, invariably, means that Multichoice’s GOtv is operating illegally but unchallenged by the body that should do exactly that in Nigeria.

Another of Multichoice’s above-the-law attitude in the country is the way it relates with Nigerian customers, also fleecing them indiscriminately by incessant scrambling; it is now very common for those who are having valid subscription to have it scrambled especially when an important football match is about taking place. And this has been helping the company generate a lot of money in connivance with some GSM company that collects money for SMS which Multichoice lied would easily rectify or clear the error code that has become a regular thing for the subscribers. To clear errors the company has asked that a certain information be sent to the company’s short code of 30333, knowing fully that a percentage of the SMS fee will be going back to the company for every one sent.

Another of the company’s tactics unearthed by the investigation is the employment of inconsistency in the method of payment; the company has been making sure the date of validity on the receipt collected by customers is usually not the same on the computers of the satellite TV. An example is when the date on the payment receipt obtained from the office of Multi-choice shows that a subscriber’s account will be valid till, say, 20th of the month only for the same subscriber to receive SMS later that the account validity will expire by 14th, cutting off six days from the due date of the subscriber while it is near-impossible to get the company to rectify the perceived problem.

While all these are going on in Nigeria undisturbed, it is pertinent to note that the Multichoice company operates on a different wavelength in South Africa where it is operating a pay-per-view payment structure while it is fixed monthly in Nigeria. This invariably means you do not need to use it in Nigeria for your payment to lapse. The subscription starts running out the moment payment is made, not minding if you watch it or not, a situation that has seen the company pocket money for services not rendered in most cases.

It was discovered that despite the fact that DStv makes the bulk of its money from Nigeria, most of its promos are held in South Africa and this much is beamed even to the Nigerian customers’ chagrin, knowing that the government has no law or policy in place to protect the interest of the company’s Nigerian subscribers.

According to a customer of the DStv:  “It is even more annoying for you to get home from work with the hope of enjoying what you are paying heavily for and it is scrambled when you are still having like two weeks subscription left.”
This we gathered is a normal occurrence in the way Nigerians are being treated by the company, and all these happen with no form of compensation. It will take the subscriber ceaseless calls to the pay TV customer care centre, which also eats heavily into the airtime of the subscriber, before it is picked for the problem to be rectified.

This character, we can inform, is not a thing that started just overnight as such tendency has been shown before now while the regulatory body folds its arms and does nothing about it. It is to be noted that Multichoice in the past decided to offer the management of Cable News Network (CNN) money for the right to be the only station that will be beaming the otherwise-free broadcast of the CNN in Nigeria when some new indigenous satellite pay-TVs started springing up and also tapping into the CNN news network which was then free; thereby cutting off the companies from enjoying what it (Multichoice) had enjoyed for many years and killing off any sort of competition from those new stations. This gave Multichoice a monopoly of that market, while the government agency supposed to be in charge has seemingly been compromised by Multichoice. This appears to be the reason the regulators have been silent on the many atrocities the company has been perpetrating on Nigerians.