Court faults Macra in DStv tariffs dispute

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority director general Daud Suleman

The High Court of Malawi says  Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) acted beyond its powers by demanding MultiChoice Malawi to get prior approval from the regulator before raising DStv tariffs.

Judge William Yakuwawa Msiska said Macra was in the wrong since DStv rates are not set by MultiChoice Malawi (MCM) but by MultiChoice Africa Holdings (MAH).

“The court has quashed the decision of Macra where it accused the service provider to be in breach of section the section 74,”  said lawyer for MultiChoice Malawi, Wapona Kita.

The dispute started in June 2022 when MCM wrote Macra to apply for GOtv and DStv tariff adjustment pursuant to section 74 of the Communications Act.

Before Macra decided on the tariff revision request, MCM, on 21stJune 2022, made a public announcement to unilaterally adjust the DStv tariffs effective 15th July 2022.

On 28th June 2022, Macra wrote MCM, notifying it of breach of licence and section 74 of the Communications Act.

On 12th July 2022, MCM wrote Macra expressing their refusal to appear before a hearing and address the notice issued by Macra. Instead, MCM opted to pursue legal action by seeking an injunction to restrain Macra from implementing the determination that it had made.

However, the High Court ruled against MCM’s application for an injunction, stating that MCM needed to first exhaust the dispute resolution channels within their licence framework and await the decision of Macra on the matter.

On 28th November 2022, MCM appeared and made representations before Macra in Blantyre for the hearing of the allegation of breach of licence and statutory provisions. On 22nd December 2022, the Macra Board determined that MCM violated the conditions of its support and Communications Act related to tariff approval requirements (the “Determination”).

On 13th January 2023, MCM obtained an injunction restraining Macra from implementing the Determination and obtained permission to commence judicial review proceedings against Macra.

MCM in July 2023 yet again proceeded to implement another increase in tariffs, which was due to an effective 1st August 2023.

On 8th August 2023, Macra successfully obtained an injunction against MCM for, once again, raising its tariffs in July 2023 without the prior approval of MACRA.

After failing to vacate the injunction, Multichoice Africa Holdings pulled its services out of Malawi to avoid the legal implications of failing to implement the court order.

Meanwhile, Kita has said that MultiChoice will make a decision on whether it will resume its services following today’s court ruling.