The Association of Telephone, Cable TV and Internet Subscribers (ATCIS) has championed the course of defending and fighting for consumers’ rights from telecoms and Cable TV operators.
ATCIS’s National President, Prince Sina Bilesanmi in this interview provided response to some questions on the plan of Multichoice Nigeria, to adjust subscription rates for DSTV and GoTV on June 1, to implement 7.5% value added tax (VAT).
Q: What is the position of your organisation on the proposed increase in tariff of the DSTV service?
Bilesanmi: This is an opportunity for ATCIS to air our views on the proposed implementation of VAT increase on Cable TV subscriptions particularly by DSTV and GoTV, which leads to automatic increase in Tariffs.
ATCIS is aware that the 2.5% VAT increase to 7.5% is contained in the finance bill and the bill became effective in February. The fact that Multichoice is now planning to execute it at such a critical time is very insensitive and that is where ATCIS has issue with them.
With lockdown and restrictions due to COVID-19, We are currently living in a time when people are losing their jobs on droves, when those who have their personal works are incapacitated. However, this is also a time that some responsible corporate citizens are looking at ways to reduce the painful effect of Coronavirus on the people.
Unfortunately, Multichoice is not seeing all these. All they want is to bring more financial burden to their subscribers. GoTV and Dstv has always enjoyed the boom days in Nigeria, to the point of what we consider high cost of subscription. What we need them to understand now is that this is time for everyone to make sacrifice too.
We already have some telecommunications companies that are giving Nigerian free SMS, free data and even cut their data subscription rates to reduce the impact of the lockdown and economic pain that covid-19 have brought to people. Multichoice is not one of those and that is what ATCIS is strongly advocating against. #
So, come June 1, Multichoice is advised to suspend its move on the new tariff, and wait for the proper time. That is our stand.
Q: What impact does this have on the purchasing power of Nigerians?
Bilesanmi: We all know that when the source of revenue is troubled, the income flow stops or shrinks, leaving people to live on ration and apply austerity measures just to survive.
The implication of Multichoice action is that their services may go beyond the reach of many Nigerians and only the rich will be able to afford it.
People are already burdened. What we need now is not extra financial load on the weak purchasing power of the people. Even in some countries, many services such as this are encouraged by the governments to serve the people free of charge for some times because of what CoVid-19 has done to the economy and how this has negatively affected people’s purchasing power in turn.
Q: Would you say Nigerians are being exploited by Cable TV providers?
Bilesanmi: The simple answer to this is a capital YES. Nigerians, generally, are being exploited by Multichoice and its other colleagues in the PayTV market. The fact that they have stuck to only month prepaid subscription model against people’s will says it all.
Here is why: when you do your subscription today, and you travel for the next 30 days such that you have not enjoyed your subscription, it will have expired before your return and when you come back, you’ll have to do another subscription to have access to their services.
This is why ATCIS, as the only subscriber advocacy body in the country, has been advocating that this payTV operators should introduce another model known as pay-as-go or Pay Per View.
We have spent years advocating this but the operators have refused to do it. Why elso would they be adamant if not because the Pay Per View model will liberate Nigerians from their extortion?
The similar analysis of this is the way we buy recharge card or buy data from telecos. If you do not use the airtime on your phone, you have no reason to buy another.
This is justice. But in a situation whereby whether you use it or not, the airtime and data must disappear and you will have to buy another one, there is no justice there. This is why we are calling on Nigerian authorities to make these Pay TV people use the pay Per View model.
We cannot continue with this kind of extortion. We need a new system where subscribers pay for the service that use and nothing more.
Ordinarily, subscribers should be the king in the PayTv market, but what we have in Nigeria is the opposite. The extortion must stop or if not, ATCIs will have no choice than to take the necessary action against such imbalances and exploitation of Nigerians of their hard earned money.
Q: How do you think future exploitation could be prevented?
Bilesanmi: we believe every market has many phases and that the time is ripe for the Nigerian pay TV market to move to the next phase where there will be no further extortion. This can be achieved when our local authorities are ready to see things from the angle of subscribers and take decisive action against to please Nigerians.
They must possess and demonstrate the will to make this operators introduce better subscription arrangements that will being more value to the people. We are also advocating that on every October 1, Nigerians should have free access to the services. This should not be too much in commemoration of Nigeria’s Independence Day.
To achieve this however, the National Assembly has a role to play. The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has a role to play. The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has a role to play and many others. This is the maturity stage out market should move to now and that must not be delayed any further.
Q: As an organization protecting consumers in this sector, what is your action plan against this proposed increase in tariff?
Bilesanmi: Well, I believe we have already taken some steps which include consulting Multichoice management. We told them to hold on on the increase in their subscriptions and we have justified this to them.
But should they go ahead despite all our efforts to let them see why they should not, I believe we all know what follows. After consultation is confrontation and when that happens, nobody will be left out of the loop.
If Multichoice cannot ease Nigerians’ pain, it should not add to it.