Consumer Commission takes on MultiChoice, Top TV over bundled bouquets

Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 05-03-2012

South African pay-TV operators MultiChoice and Top TV are facing an industrial tribunal after rejecting compliance notices over unbundling their channel packages for subscribers.
In October 2011 the National Consumer Commission ordered the country's two pay-TV companies to unbundle their TV channels as it claims this model contravenes the Consumer Protection Act. The companies are now facing a Consumer Tribunal over the matter.
On Friday (2 March), MultiChoice's advocate Schalk Burger argued that the commission had not properly consulted the sector's regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), said the Mail and Guardian.
The regulator should have been consulted ahead of the issue of the compliance notices, but this did not happen, said MultiChoice, leaving the notice "fatally defective".
The commission's director of legal services, Oatlhotse Thupayatlase, argued that the consultation had been "extensive", adding: "It is comfortable for MultiChoice to argue consultation for eternity."
Should the Consumer Tribunal declare the compliance notice invalid, the Commission would have to then consult Icasa prior to issuing another.
Thupayatlase declared if this was to happen: "We will be back, though, asking for the tribunal's attention to the issues of substance and the protection of consumers from abuse," according to the Mail and Guardian.
Both MultiChoice and Top TV say their subscription packages, complete with bundled channel selections, follow the global model for pay-TV businesses.
"If we remodel our product structure it will cause our business serious harm and could lead to our closure," Vino Govender, former chief executive of On Digital Media, which runs Top TV, told Channel24 last year.
The tribunal has now reserved judgment.