The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) on Monday obtained a High Court order that stopped implementation of its own decision to force CFTC refund K2 billion fine to Airtel Malawi plc.
CFTC, as an appellant, has made Airtel Malawi a respondent in the appeal case. And one of the lawyers representing Airtel Malawi, Raphael Mhone, said in an interview on Monday that the telecommunication firm would cross appeal.
Judge Allan Muhome of High Court Civil Division in Blantyre on July 12 2023 ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to review evidence and possibly place criminal charges on Airtel.
The court further granted Airtel K2 billion fine refund that the CFTC slapped on the mobile phone operator.
But on Monday, Muhome stayed his own judgement and allowed CFTC to appeal. He further extended the refund period from 14 days to 24 days.
On the other hand, DPP Masauko Chamkakala, apparently unaware of the developments, said in an interview Monday that his office was reviewing the court’s decision before deciding whether to place criminal charges on Airtel.
In his judgement of July 12 this year, Muhome agreed with Airtel lawyers Mhone and Madalitso Mmeta on one of the eight objections, which was that it was outside the mandate of the CFTC to impose a fine on Airtel.
Airtel challenged in court the CFTC determination that found the company guilty of unconscionable conduct for changing terms of a bonus scheme styled Khete-Khete loyalty programme.
In its notice of appeal, CFTC, through its lawyers Destone & Company, wants an order from the Supreme Court to reverse the judgement of the High Court, including the order to refund Airtel until hearing is concluded in the Supreme Court.
CFTC is arguing that the court below misdirected itself and committed an error in law in respect of its finding that CFTC lacked jurisdiction to order the fine of an amount equivalent to the financial gain generated by Airtel.
“The court below erred in law in failing to disclose the reasons why it ordered a refund,” reads part of the notice of appeal.
CFTC earlier ordered Airtel to pay the K2 billion fine, saying it gained advantage over its customers when it changed the scheme from automatic crediting of the bonuses to one where customers were required to redeem the bonuses on a set date.
Muhome ordered CFTC to refund K2 113 099 660 fine, but dismissed the rest of the grounds of appeal and ordered the DPP to review the evidence before the court and consider placing criminal charges on Airtel within 90 days.