Wednesday, December 6, 2023

BOCRA in yet another tariff tussle

The country’s telecommunications sector regulator, Botswana Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) this week made its way back into the court following an urgent application in which Multi Choice Botswana (MCB) seeks to stop BOCRA from forcefully demanding for its annual tariffs.

It emerged in Gaborone High court on Wednesday that BOCRA is insisting on having MultiChoice Botswana (MCB) submit its tariffs for approval while MCB on the other hand maintains that it is unnecessary.

Collins and Newman Attorney, Virgil Verger who appeared on behalf of BOCRA said that as a licensed service provider, MCB is bound by the terms of its license as well as the BOCRA ACT which requires them to submit the tariffs. MCB on the other, as represented by Advocate Stephen Vivian argues that its role is to provide subscription management services for subscribers of MultiChoice Africa in Botswana. MCB further argues that it does not have control or input on content channels which include DSTV services and as such does not provide a broadcast service to the local market.

In awarding an interim victory to MCB, Gaborone High Court Judge, Justice Tshepho Motswagole ordered that the two parties appear before him on the 20th of October 2017 where he will decide on whether he suspend MCB’s obligations to comply with clause 13 of the subscription management service license issued to MCB IN June this year.

In a previous similar case, in 2007, Justice Lakhvinder Walia of the Lobatse High Court ruled that services provided by MultiChoice Botswana do not amount to broadcasting in the context of the then Broadcasting Act.

The 2007 case arose after the NBB sought to regulate MultiChoice Botswana, like a TV station.

“MultiChoice is a service provider that receives its content from elsewhere and in issuing a broadcasting licence to an entity not providing a broadcasting service, the Board acted ultra vires its powers. Its decision therefore stands to be set aside,” Walia ruled at the time.

MultiChoice Botswana provides services ranging from subscriber management, subscription fees, marketing and sales, technical and installation support; and a national call centre.

Meanwhile the MCB case against BOCRA follows yet another case in June 2017 in which the regulator was dragged to court by an industry player over tariffs. In June 2017, Mascom wireless challenged the decision by BOCRA to force the country’s three teleco companies ÔÇô Mascom Wireless Botswana, Orange Botswana (PTY) Limited and Botswana Telecommunications Limited (BTCL) to slash some of their tariffs relating to the On-net/Off-net mobile voice calls. The case which was before High Court Judge Leatile Dambe was however dismissed on the same day.


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