FCCPC, Multichoice And Price Increases


“The most important factor in crashing prices, in a free market economy, is competition. I believe FCCPC should rather work with other government agencies to develop policies that will encourage more investments that would engender competitive pricing for goods and services in the economy”.


Last Wednesday, Multichoice, the South African satellite television company behind DSTV and GOTV, announced an increase in the prices of their offering to their Nigerian customers. Not long after that, the Federal Competitions and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), an agency of the Government of Nigeria, announced through its Acting Chief Executive officer, Adamu Abdullahi, that it would review the price increase. The Acting CEO stated this during an interview on ChannelsTV in Abuja. However, he did not disclose the dimension of the ‘review’. He did also not say what exactly he meant. But from antecedents, established by the Commission, it is obvious that the FCCPC barks loudest each time Multichoice announces a price increase.

Also, based on that precedence, the Commission seems to non-verbally communicate that the Government of Nigeria has an axe to grind with Multichoice. This is because FCCPC barks strongest whenever the prices of DSTV and GOTV packages are increased. Sometimes, even the National Assembly gets involved with incendiary comments that suggest instigating Nigerians against the company. The focus has always been to force Multichoice to lower its rates irrespective of the market and inflationary realities of the Nigerian market. Recall that soon after the Multichoice price adjustment, telecom companies also announced the intention to increase the prices of call and data services. FCCPC has been mute since then.

Let us examine it this way! Yes, it is agreed that FCCPC has the onerous duty of ensuring value for money for goods and services in the Nigerian market. It is also supposed to enforce the protection of consumer’s right to healthy competition. However, what has become evident is that FCCPC rises only when prices are increased by private providers of consumer goods. Look back at the progression of the Nigerian market since May 29, 2023, when President Bola Tinubu publicly declared the end of the subsidy on the petrol regime. That presidential declaration triggered the immediate jerk-up of the prices of petrol, diesel, and kerosene. It also caused a consequential increase in inflation which eroded the purchasing power of many Nigerians. Consequentially, Nigerians experienced the pain of increases in the price of daily needs including basic foodstuff, cooking oil, toiletries and every other essential household needs. – Please see the Selected Food Prices Watch for March 2024 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The price of drugs and pharmaceuticals was not spared. This has forced many Nigerians to explore herbal options against prescription drugs for auto-immune diseases not minding their consequences on internal organs.

DSTV and GOTV are not on the list of daily needs reviewed by the NBS in its March 2024 analysis. Do you know why? It is simply because they are not essential needs like basic foodstuff and medicines which prices keep rocketing without control. The population of Nigerians connected to DSTV and GOTV pale to nothing when compared to the percentage negatively affected by the increase in the prices of petrol, cooking gas, diesel, kerosene and even Jet-A1. The percentage that sweats every day, (recently though), in long queues under harsh weather conditions, to buy petrol, even at beyond-official-pump prices, far outweigh those affected by the increase in the prices of DSTV and GOTV services.

Let us also compare the population of Nigerians that are negatively impacted by the increase in DSTV and GOTV prices against the population that is affected by the recent increase in the tariff on electricity even amid the existing regime of estimated billing through which millions of Nigerians do not get value for money paid to the electricity companies. Is FCCPC averse to taking action on such issues as estimated billing in the energy sector where millions of Nigerians are exposed to paying for energy they did not consume? Or, is it not FCCPC’s focus to ensure that consumers get value for money spent on services and goods?

Get my drift. FCCPC’s focus ought to be on getting value for money. It should not be seen as active only when Multichoice increases the prices of its services. If the commission wants Nigerians to believe that it is not pushing against Multichoice for any hidden reason (s), it should be able to “review” the increase in prices of basic foodstuff across Nigeria as well as enter the pharmaceutical sector to also “review” prices of basic medicines especially, essential drugs for auto-immune diseases. FCCPC ought also to visit the transport sector to review the cost of road transport. It should be able to find the middle way between how much Nigerians paid on road trips from Abuja to Lagos before May 2023 and how much they now pay. It should also be in a position to review the cost of production across Nigeria and the implications for an economy where “market forces” rule.

The fact here is that every aspect of Nigeria’s economy is negatively impacted by the policy on the removal of the subsidy on petrol. The impact of the pronouncement makes it imperative that businesses adjust their prices upwards to remain in business. Businesses are no charity organisations. And, a free market economy policy suggests that businesses can only remain buoyant and useful in the interaction between demand and supply. It indicates that businesses operate to make a profit as well as compete with each other to attract customers. A free market economy indicates that buyers and sellers engage in transactions voluntarily –willing buyer, willing seller. It also means that prices reflect the demand and supply curve with goods and services traded without restrictions. In a free market economy, where market forces rule, freedom is key while government intervention, as minimal as it must be, is often focused on the protection of property rights and law enforcement… not price regulation or enforcement.

Therefore, in an economy where the government embarks on regular trips abroad in search of investors, FCCPC should be able to support the government by demonstrating its focus on ensuring that consumers get value for money paid for goods and services and not to review or regulate prices. FCCPC’s immediate past CEO, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, explained at different times that the commission lacks the powers to regulate prices. Despite this, the Acting CEO makes suggestive comments about reviewing Multichoice prices. This, in itself, could incite the public against the business. This is because such comments had in the past instigated negative actions against the business including legal actions which failed to achieve purpose before the Consumer Protection Tribunal. If, however, the Acting CEO believes that FCCPC must determine and fix the prices of goods and services for businesses, it must then go back to regulate the primary cause of the increase in prices because it cannot possibly cure a malignant tumor by administering only analgesics. It must go beyond that to also review, determine and fix how much school and hospital owners, private and public, charge etc., as well as regulate the forex regime which has a tremendous impact on the cost of imported goods like Multichoice equipment.

The most important factor in crashing prices, in a free market economy, is competition. I believe FCCPC should rather work with other government agencies to develop policies that will encourage more investments that would engender competitive pricing for goods and services in the economy. Doing otherwise will proclaim FCCPC as working against the rule of market forces, a prevailing policy of the government.

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