Liberia: DSTV Takes Telecommunications Authority to Court over Issuance of License to Competitors To Show Channels ‘Excuslively Meant For Dstv’
Monrovia – The Liberian telecoms regulatory body, Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), faces a challenge to its authority with operator, DSTV dragging the Regulator and DSTV’s competitors directly to court in absolute “disregard” of the LTA’s due process procedure. According to LTA’s licensing procedure regulations, an aggrieved licensee or telecoms consumer must first seek redress at the LTA through a dispute hearing process.
DSTV, operated by Consolidated Group, a company owned by businessman and politician Simeon Freeman, is roiled by competition from later entrants to the market, Nanasat, SATCON and K3 Telecoms, which DSTV has sued along with LTA in the Commercial Court for damages for wrong.
DSTV is the first operator licensed by the LTA for Satellite TV services but browbeaten its monopoly with high and constraining pricing around US$90.00 per month until the coming of the others, which are providing similar services at very relatively affordable costs (as low as US$30.00 monthly subscription) leading to access by many low-income earners.
“DSTV has been a delinquent and non-compliant operator until only recently apparently in preparation for its court action. They said they have been complaining to us and we have been complacent. This is a lie. We take every complaint from any of our service providers very seriously and we go into those complaints.”LTA Insider
The Action of Damages for Wrong by Attachment led to the shutting of all DSTV’s competitors for one week denying thousands of subscribers’ access.
This newspaper has heard that LTA commissioners are said not have consensus amongst themselves on an approach to the court case leading to the suspicion that DSTV may have infiltrated their ranks.
According to an LTA source, who preferred anonymity as this person is not clothed with the authority to speak to the press especially as the matter is in court, told this newspaper that DSTV has not really been liaising with them (telecoms regulators).
“DSTV has been a delinquent and non-compliant operator until only recently apparently in preparation for its court action. They said they have been complaining to us and we have been complacent. This is a lie. We take every complaint from any of our service providers very seriously and we go into those complaints,” the LTA source stated.
Challenge of DSTV US$4M Attachment Bond
Meanwhile, Nanasat, SATCON and K3 have jointly posed a challenge to what is believed by legal practitioners to be a dubious US$4 million attachment bond while the LTA is reluctant to defend itself and the licensed operators.
Telecom experts, who FrontPageAfrica spoke to concerning this case, suggested that this is DSTV’s attempt to unnecessarily create a monopoly in the telecoms sector which in turn will see them increasing the monthly subscriptions to astronomical levels.
DSTV/Consolidated Group US$4 Bond
Consolidated Group in its lawsuit said it will indemnify the accused companies in the amount of US$4 Million from all damages and costs which they may incur as a consequence of the suit if the plaintiff fails to prosecute the case successfully.
Excerpt from the attachment reads: “The said plaintiff /principal will appear before this Honorable Court or any other to which this case may be removed and to indemnify the said defendants named herein, in the sum of Four Million United States Dollars (US$4,000,000,000) if the said defendants prevail in the final determination on the main suit.”
Commercial Court Orders the Reopening of Cable Providers
Following the closure of Satcon, Nanasat and K3 Telecoms for nearly a week, the head judge of the Commercial Court, Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan issued an Order to Vacate the Attachment on the three cable providers, whose businesses had been shut temporarily based on DSTV’s complaint.