Hikes in subscriptions by digital satellite television (Dstv) services provider, MultiChoice –Zimbabwe, coming at a time when the world is battling the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, have been described as ill-timed by consumers.
MultiChoice-Zimbabwe recently announced price increases for its Dstv packages, which come into effect on June 1, 2020.
The Dstv Lite package will surge from US$7 to US$8 while the Access package will increase from US$11 to US$13. Family package will go up from US$17 to US$19, Compact package from US$25 to US$29, Compact Plus from US$40 to US$45, Premium from US$65 to US$75, HD PVR Premium from US$76 to US$88, XtraView access fee from US$11 to US$13 and Indian package from US$32 to US$37.
The price increases are despite Dstv seemingly running out of content, evidenced by repeats in some of its programming owing to the COVID-19 induced lockdowns.
However, MultiChoice-Zimbabwe defended the increases, which the company said were meant to incorporate the 14.5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT), adding the adjustments were the first in four years’ time.
“The timing is very terrible given the fact that the world is battling the global pandemic of the coronavirus,” National Consumer Rights Association (NACORA) spokesperson Effie Ncube, told CITE.
“We expected that every service-provider out there, be they banks, Dstv, broadcasters or whoever, will contribute their best to ensure that people have the fullest access to information because if we do not have a global picture of what is taking place, we are likely to underestimate the danger that we are facing. If we limit ourselves to the services of the national broadcaster that usually gives us a rosy picture of what government is doing, we are likely to think that this (COVID-19) is less risky than what it is.”
Ncube said if citizens, through Dstv services, have access to global broadcasters like CNN, BBC, Aljazeera and others, they will be better informed during the COVID-19 era.
“Morally, anything that adds to the people’s woes during this period of COVID-induced hardships is unwelcome,” said Methuseli Moyo, a Bulawayo resident in reference to the subscription hikes.
“But like I said, maybe they have compelling reasons to do so.”
For business analyst, Ndumiso Ncube, Dstv price hikes is probably a test whether their profits will be maximised under the pandemic conditions.
“Otherwise in terms of social responsibility it can be deemed as not proper,” he said.
“On the other hand, each government must prioritise its citizens by making sure they broadcast current and up to date information and citizens are kept abreast on all updates.”
Sipho Nyoni, another Bulawayo resident, said for him it was not about the timing but subscriptions that have always been high even before the advent of COVID-19.
“To be honest I think its (Dstv) prices were already exorbitant and out of reach for many Zimbabweans, so COVID-19 or not, the real issue is that Dstv is now seen as more of an unnecessary luxury for many who have switched to free –to-air tv from South Africa,” said Nyoni.
He added that Zimbabwe’s volatile economic situation was to blame for the increase but was also quick to say Dstv was taking advantage of its monopoly.
The price increase, consumers said would undoubtedly see more people boycott Dstv considering people’s incomes have been affected by the pandemic.
“The increase will eventually see the number of subscribers decreasing as Dstv services are price elastic or sensitive to a shift in prices,” said Ncube.
“Subscribers would rather focus on basic foodstuffs and other important obligations and bills. Most subscribers` disposable incomes have been reduced due to some recent company tactics implemented, like cutting some significant percentages of employee`s salaries. Some have not been paid at all. Therefore, most luxuries, Dstv included will be scrapped.”