MultiChoice is enmeshed in controversy following the inability of the handlers of its DStv brand to fulfil the promise made to customers that won the star prize to attend the 2014 Grammy Awards in the United States. ThisDay on Sunday reports.
Emmanuel Igoche, a customer of DStv, a leading pay television in the stable of MultiChoice, was like a bride on October 11, 2013, when he was celebrated for winning the star prize of MultiChoice Nigeria 20th anniversary promo. But for what later happened, the victory would have afforded him and his wife the golden opportunity of witnessing the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Four days before then, precisely on October 7, the name of the Abuja- based customer and another subscriber, Baban Mallam Mohammed Kamilu had been announced on the programme Monday Night Football, on Super Sport 3 Nigeria, as winners of an all-expense paid return trip for the event. The award was held on January 26, 2014.
Since the prize attracted a ticket for a couple to attend the awards, Mr. Igoche Emmanuel Eche and his wife, Mabel had flown in from Abuja to be part of the prize presentation ceremony which held at MultiChoice Office on Tiamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island, Lagos on October 11, 2013. The short ceremony was witnessed by the media. Mr. Igoche and other winners were full of smiles and enthusiasms as they entertained questions from journalists and well-wishers. They sang praises of the Pay TV company and expressed their joy for winning the coveted prize. Though the other winner, Baban Mallam Mohammed Kamilu could not witness the ceremony, he was however, represented by his wife, Hajia Baban Mallam.
The draws, which produced the two star winners and 16 other subscribers were earlier held at the SuperSport Studio, Billings Way, Oregun, Lagos. The 18 lucky subscribers were drawn from a pool of thousands who qualified for the draws. Among other things, it was stated that the tickets or the two star winners allowed them to also travel with their spouses.
Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, Mr. John Ugbe, had said at the event that the company was about providing value for its customers. This, he pointed out, the company had done consistently in the last 20 years without fail.
He categorically stated that it would continue to reward loyalty to the brand and ensure that it kept up the services that endear the brand to its subscribers through excellent programming and premium content on both the DStv and GOtv platforms.
Other prizes won at the draw include: One year free subscription on GOtv plus bouquet for four subscribers; GOtv decoders for four subscribers; N200, 000 for four subscribers, and Walka 7 handheld mobile devices for four subscribers.
The draw was witnessed by verification consultant, Alexander Forbes Consulting’s Ibilola Akinla; Head, Lagos office, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Tam Tamunokonbia, and a team from MultiChoice, headed by the company’s marketing manager, DStv, Chioma Afe and its erstwhile Head of Public Relations, Mr. Segun Fayose.
But despite the hype associated with the promotion, it turned out to be a misadventure for the winners, who neither travelled to the US nor got anything as compensation for the disappointment till date. The whole exercise now looks like a fraud in disguise as the brand owners only used it to boost sales while the promo lasted.
The travelling tickets sent to one of the winners indicated that they would depart Lagos on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 11.05pm on Delta Airlines and arrive Los Angeles LAX Airport 11.50 am (American time). Departure from Los Angeles scheduled for Tuesday January 28, 2014 1.15pm and arrive in Lagos on the January 29, 2014.
Hotel reservation was said to have been made for the winners at the Double Tree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown which is two miles away from the Staples Center, where the event was billed to hold.
When contacted to explain how his hope of travelling to US was dashed, Mr. Baban Mallam Mohammed Kamilu told the paper that the handling of the exercise was shrouded in secrecy until the last minute when it was obvious the winners would not make it.
He said: “It still baffles me that things turned out the way it did, giving the pedigree of the company involved. All along, we were discussing with one Bisi Animashaun, who kept promising us. But few weeks into the trip, she informed us that we would have to get visa by ourselves. We were surprised because they gave us the impression that they would take care of all the expenses and processes. Despite that, I summoned the courage and requested for necessary information that would make us get the visa. This was the stage of things until I received another call from Animashaun that she was sorry we will not be able to make the trip,”
According to Kamilu, the DStv representative had ended her discussion with the assurance that the company might compensate them with a trip to Sun City in South Africa. He however added that even though the woman was not sure if her proposal will be accepted by her company, she implored the winners to accept it if she was able to push it through.
The second winner, Mr. Emmanuel Igoche moved a bit further after he was told of the need to apply for the visa, by writing a petition to Ugbe, the chief executive of MultiChoice, and expressed his displeasure. Among other things, he had demanded the tickets for the event and the travel tickets to enable him get his visa. The letter dated January 20, 2014, was titled: “Multichoice 20th Anniversary Promo – Request for Multichoice to Meet Her Obligation. All relevant stakeholders, including the Director-General of CPC, Mrs. Funke Atoki, were copied.
Even though he acknowledged that the MD was in the know of all the issues regarding the promotion. Nevertheless, he furnished him all the issues that culminated in the demand notice.
He made reference to how electronic air travel tickets were sent to him via email on the October 10, 2013 for him and his wife and how he was celebrated like a king in the making in the Lagos office of the company. He also stated how the company used them for marketing purposes.
According to him in the letter, “There was an extensive social and traditional media promotion of the prize presentation in order to garner even more participation in the promo. The lead time between when I was presented the prize afforded you the opportunity to maximise the publicity and attract even more successful patronage of your promo this time would also have afforded you the avenue to meet your obligation had you wanted to do so. The interview I granted, the copious use of my pictures and news releases no doubt contributed to the success of your programme, it therefore behoves you to, in the minimum, keep your word and honour your obligation to us your loyal customer” the letter had stated.
The winner pointed out that after the presentation ceremony; they were told that MultiChoice would be in contact with them for the arrangement to Los Angeles. He however added that after he was announced as a winner and upon publicity endorsing the brand in the media, nothing pointed to the fact that MultiChoice was keen about its intention to honour her obligation.
“Ideally, I am meant to be kept abreast of the progress made in delivering your commitment, but unfortunately I am the one belaboured with following up with you in the last week of November 2013. I inquired about our travel arrangement, I was told by Bisi Animashaun to send our (my wife and I) passport details, which I did via e-mail. However, much to my discomfiture, I was called a few days later and informed that I had to apply for the visa myself albeit with the assurance that he would be given an introductory letter and the necessary information required to complete the visa application.
On December 3, 2013, I was sent an e-mail containing only the address of MultiChoice, with the assurance however, that I would be contacted regarding Hotel reservations in Los Angeles. I thereafter made several calls to MultiChoice (Bisi Animashaun) in the second and third week of December 2013 to provide me with the relevant documentation and information in order to complete the visa application process since it was obvious at that point that time was running out, I was told every time I called that “The arrangements were still in progress.” This information has not been communicated to me till date, hence greatly affecting my ability to procure the relevant travel visas,” he said.
In an emotion-laden tone, Igoche complained in the letter that the company handled the matter in a most unprofessional way, stating that it seems as if it was a deliberate attempt to insult the intelligence of the winners.
“I am still completely taken aback as to how a highly reputed corporate organisation like yours would take an important development that borders on your integrity, your reputation and the feeling of your customers completely for granted. It is completely sad and hitherto unimaginable that I have to write this sort of letter before a leading company like yours would meet its obligation” he had stated.
Efforts made to speak with the management of MultiChoice to hear the company’s own side of the story was not successful, as all the calls made to its Marketing Manager, Martin Mabutho, and the lady handling the processes, Bisi Animasahun were not picked. However, a source within the organisation who didn’t want to be quoted absolved MultiChoice of any blame.
According to the source; “Though I am not in the position to speak for the company because the PR manager just resigned. This notwithstanding, I don’t think the company should be blamed. It is absurd for the winners to expect MultiChoice to get them American visa. It’s like somebody promising to pay your school fees and you expect him to help you sit for qualifying test.”
The source also stated that there were some conditions stipulated in the rules of the promotion, which were needed to be met before the winners could embark on the trip, adding that procuring a valid visa is one of such requirements.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Protection Council has reacted to the development, saying the Pay TV company was not fair to the people affected.
Deputy Director, Public Relations, at the council, Mr. Abiodun Obimuyiwa, told the paper that the promotion supposed to be a total package.
“I have not formally received the copy of the petition wrote by one of the affected consumers but I’m aware of the development. For the winners to enjoy the total reward of the promo, the organisers ought to make it a total package, not a skeletal thing that will at the end frustrate consumers, who had won,” he said.