By Dipo Olowookere
Subscribers to DStv service in Abuja have called on the relevant regulatory bodies to check what they described as “inflexible’’ subscription conditions.
The subscribers to the digital cable TV service made the call in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.
They complained, among other things, about the absence of toll-free lines to reach the company whenever necessary, absence of free-to-air channels, as well as exorbitant subscription rates for bouquets.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) had in February issued a directive to MultiChoice Nigeria, owners of DStv, on the need to be flexible on its dealings with subscribers.
Investigations by CPC earlier had confirmed allegations of violations of consumers’ rights leveled against MultiChoice Nigeria in the delivery of its service.
Consequently, it ordered the cable company to, among other things; provide toll-free lines to its subscribers, release free-to-air channels, even when subscription expires and compensate consumers across board for lost viewing time.
The council also observed that the DStv billing system, whereby “billing is not contemporaneous with the provision of service” was not in the best interest of consumers.
It, therefore, ordered MultiChoice to install a billing system that would ensure that billing was commensurate with the provision of service.
However, over six months after the order was given by the CPC, subscribers to DStv service were still agitating for better service experience.
Some of them said that DSTV was yet to comply to the order, alleging it was either the company had “settled the CPC or money has exchanged hands’’.
Martins Asuquo, a civil servant, said there was the need for the cable company to be more sensitive and responsive to the Nigerian market in view of the present economic challenges.
“Our regulatory bodies should call DStv operators to order.
“If it really means well for Nigerians, DStv needs to listen to its customers and make its service affordable and readily accessible.
“If you are having any challenge with the service, you will have to make sure you have enough airtime on your phone before you can contact its customer centre.
“Why can’t they provide toll-free lines for us?
“If they have, let them make such lines readily available to their numerous customers across the country,” he said.
Mr Asuquo said it was annoying that the company always reminded customers to renew their subscription that was yet to expire.
“One will always receive series of calls to be reminded on the need to get prepared for the next subscription.
“This is more disturbing when you realise that you will be yanked off as soon as your subscription expires.”
Another subscriber, Mrs Juliet Ogunyemi said the company had no free-to-air channels, in spite of the huge money they were making from Nigeria.
She added that there was need for the company to list all Nigerian local television stations on its free-to-air channels in all its available bouquets.
“The only free-to air channel I know on DStv for now is CCTV, which is not even our indigenous station.
“I don’t think it will amount to giving too much to Nigerians if DStv increased our free-to-air channels.
“We have remained loyal and consistent to this company over the years, let it reciprocate our loyalty,” Mrs Ogunyemi said.
She added that the company’s service suspension mechanism, on account of being away for some time, was yet to be made efficient.
“If you apply for suspension of service, it normally takes longer than you wanted before they will make it effective.
“This also reduces the duration you are supposed to enjoy your subscription.
“It will be better if a code is devised to enable a subscriber apply for it on his or her mobile device,” she said.
In the same vein, Tijani Atojoko, a sports enthusiast, noted that some popular channels, especially on sports, were not available in certain bouquets of DStv.
“Sport is something almost everyone loves and follows.
“There should be an equitable spread of popular sports and other channels in the bouquets.
“Government should make DStv see reasons to make its service better for us.
“I don’t think this is how they operate in other countries such as South Africa,’’ he said.
Erica Ovuakporoye said since she subscribed to the cable TV, she’s had a nasty experience.
According to her, DSTV is exploitative.
Ovuakporoye said that even after renewing her subscription, she would still be disconnected.
She said the most annoying aspect was that she had to spend her airtime to call DSTV for a problem that was not her making to be rectified.
“It is so annoying and frustrating, the Nigerian Government has to stand up and protect its citizens from the exploitation of these foreign companies,’’ she said.
When NAN contacted Abiodun Obimuyiwa, the Deputy Director of Public Relations of the Consumer council, he said MultiChoice had complied with the order.
“We can confirm that they complied with our order. I am aware that DStv now has a toll-free- line for its subscribers.
“Also, they have also compensated consumers across board for lost viewing time.
“I don’t know why some subscribers are saying they are not aware of these,’’ he said.
Obimuyiwa claimed that that DStv had also a listed a local television channel as its free-to –air channel as stipulated by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
“By the NBC provision, a digital TV station is supposed to leave one local TV as its free-to-air channel, and DStv’s free to air is NTA,” he said.