The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has provided a comprehensive update to the public regarding the ongoing legal battle between MultiChoice Malawi (MCM) and MACRA. This statement aims to clarify the events surrounding the court case and present MACRA’s stance on the matter.
Main Issue in Court
At the center of the dispute is MultiChoice Malawi’s challenge against MACRA’s determination that MCM breached its statutory and license obligations by raising DSTv tariffs without obtaining prior approval from MACRA. The sequence of events leading to the current situation is as follows:
- On June 3rd, 2022, MultiChoice Malawi submitted an application to MACRA for tariff adjustments for GOTv and DStv services in line with section 74 of the Communications Act.
- Prior to MACRA’s decision on the tariff revision request, on June 21st, 2022, MCM unilaterally announced a DSTv tariff adjustment effective from July 15th, 2022.
- On June 28th, 2022, MACRA wrote to MCM, notifying them of breach of license and statutory provisions.
- On July 12th, 2022, MCM refused to address MACRA’s notice, opting instead to pursue legal action by seeking an injunction against MACRA’s determination.
- On July 25th, 2022, the High Court ruled against MCM’s injunction application, stating that MCM should exhaust dispute resolution channels within their license framework and await MACRA’s decision on the matter.
- On November 28th, 2022, MCM appeared before MACRA for a hearing regarding the breach. MACRA’s Board determined on December 22nd, 2022, that MCM violated its license conditions and Communications Act related to tariff approval requirements.
- MCM obtained an injunction in January 2023 restraining MACRA from implementing its determination and initiated judicial review proceedings against MACRA.
MACRA’s central position is that communication service tariffs, including DSTv tariffs, should not be revised without MACRA’s prior approval, as stipulated in section 74 of the Communications Act. The objective is to ensure that tariff adjustments align with economic justifications, maintaining consumer interests and regulatory standards.
Throughout the process, MACRA has engaged in multiple attempts to resolve the matter outside of court:
- In January 2023, MACRA and MCM engaged in Lilongwe for an amicable settlement, involving technical and legal experts from both sides.
- Negotiations for an out-of-court settlement were conducted in Nkopola, Mangochi, in January 2023, which unfortunately failed.
- In June 2023, a meeting in Salima between the MACRA Board and MultiChoice Africa resulted in agreed-upon terms for an out-of-court payment. However, MCM has yet to acknowledge or respond.
As of August 26th, 2023, following a court injunction and the withdrawal of MCM’s DSTv services, the High Court heard the judicial review case on August 25th, 2023. The court has reserved judgment on the matter.
MACRA emphasizes its commitment to respecting the court’s verdict and is open to peaceful resolution outside of court within the boundaries of relevant laws and licenses.
The Ministry of Information and Digitalization has been an active participant in the discussions between MACRA and MCM, consistently present in various meetings to address the matter.