An interesting legal warfare has been activated at the Federal High Court in Lagos between two telecommunication firms – Etisalat Nigeria Limited and MTN Nigeria Limited.
The suit, which came up for the first time on Tuesday before Justice Mohammed Idris, has Etisalat as the plaintiff, while the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and MTN are the first and second respondents respectively.
In the suit, Etisalat is accusing NCC of giving its competitor, MTN, a market advantage over it.
Etisalat’s lawyer, Aanu Ogunro, had appeared before Justice Idris with an application seeking the leave of the court for the suit to be heard during the court’s ongoing annual vacation.
Ogunro, while urging the vacation judge to hear the suit, said it was urgent, claiming that if the decision of the NCC in favour of MTN was not reversed it posed a threat to the business survival of Etisalat.
“My Lord, we have a motion ex parte for leave to ask for the judicial review of the decision of the first respondent. “The urgency in this matter, My Lord, is that the first respondent has made certain decisions that, if not urgently addressed, will affect the business of the applicant and it is capable of eroding the capital and the business of the applicant within a very short time,” Ogunro said.
After hearing the lawyer, the judge granted the application to hear the suit during vacation and thereafter adjourned till August 3, 2015 to take the substantive application.
Etisalat, in the main suit, is seeking a review of a decision said to be recently taken by NCC allowing 30 per cent differential between MTN’s off-net and on-net retail mobile voice tariffs.
According to Etisalat, with the said 30 per cent differential between its off-net and on-net retail mobile voice tariffs, MTN had been able to create what is called a “calling club”, an example of which is its “Family and Friends” promo.
Etisalat is contending that MTN’s “Family and Friends” promo, which offers a call rate of 11 kobo per second to eight MTN subscribers and two non-MTN subscribers, is posing a threat to its business survival.
It explained that the “Family and Friends” promo, which it claimed was launched in violation of NCC’s regulation, had aided MTN to “leverage on its size to restrict outgoing traffic to smaller operators by pricing on-net tariffs lower so as to make off-net calls unattractive.”
Etisalat, however, claimed that this 30 per cent differential in on-net and off-net retail mobile voice tariffs granted MTN by NCC was a breach of NCC’s regulation tagged the ‘Determination of Dominance in Selected Communications Markets in Nigeria.’
The DDSCMN, Etisalat said, was issued by NCC on April 25, 2013, following a study it conducted in 2012. According to Etisalat, NCC had following its 2012 study discovered that MTN was the dominant operator in the retail mobile voice market segment of the telecommunication industry in Nigeria, and that it maintained a wide differential of up to 300 per cent between its on-net and off-net retail voice tariff, which was not favourable to its competitors.
Following this discovery, the plaintiff said NCC directed that MTN should not operate with any differential between its on-net and off-net tariffs because such would substantially reduce the competitive capacity of other telecommunication service providers in the country.
AMAZON ERROR ALLOWED ALEXA USER TO EAVESDROP ON ANOTHER HOME
A user of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in Germany got access to more than a thousand recordings from another user because of “a human error” by the company.
The customer had asked to listen back to recordings of his own activities made by Alexa but he was also able to access 1,700 audio files from a stranger when Amazon sent him a link, German trade publication c’t reported.
“This unfortunate case was the result of a human error and an isolated single case,” an Amazon spokesman said.
The first customer had initially got no reply when he told Amazon about the access to the other recordings, the report said. The files were then deleted from the link provided by Amazon but he had already downloaded them on to his computer, added the report from c’t, part of German tech publisher Heise.
CRYPTOCURRENCY INDUSTRY FACES INSURANCE HURDLE TO MAINSTREAM AMBITIONS
Cryptocurrency exchanges and traders in Asia are struggling to insure themselves against the risk of hacks and theft, a factor they claim is deterring large fund managers from investing in a nascent market yet to be embraced by regulators.
Getting the buy-in from insurers would mark an important step in crypto industry efforts to show that it has solved the problem of storing digital assets safely following the reputational damage of a series of thefts, and allow it to attract investment from mainstream asset managers.
“Most institutionally minded crypto firms want to buy proper insurance, and in many cases, getting adequate insurance coverage is a regulatory or legal requirement,” said Henri Arslanian, PwC fintech and crypto leader for Asia.
“However, getting such coverage is almost impossible despite their best efforts.”
Many asset managers are interested in digital assets. A Greenwich Associates survey, published in September, said 72% of institutional investors who responded to the research firm believe crypto has a place in the future.
Last month, Mohamed El-Erian, Allianz’s chief economic adviser said that cryptocurrencies would gain wider acceptance as institutions began to invest in the space.
Most have held off investing so far however, citing regulatory uncertainty and a lack of faith in existing market infrastructure for storing and trading digital assets following a series of hacks, as well the plunge in prices.
The total market capitalisation of crypto currencies is currently estimated at approximately US$120bil (RM502bil) compared to over US$800bil (RM3.3tril) at its peak in January.
“Institutional investors who are interested in investing in crypto will have various requirements, including reliable custody and risk management arrangements,” said Hoi Tak Leung, a senior lawyer in Ashurst’s digital economy practice.
“Insufficient insurance coverage, particularly in a volatile industry such as crypto, will be a significant impediment to greater ‘institutionalisation’ of crypto investments.”
Regulatory uncertainty is another problem for large asset managers. While crypto currencies raise a number of concerns for regulators, including money laundering risks, few have set out clear frameworks for how cryptocurrencies should be traded, and by whom.
Insurance might allay some of the regulators’ concerns around cyber security. Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission recently said it was exploring regulating crypto exchanges, and signalled that the vast majority of the virtual assets held by a regulated exchange would need insurance cover.
Keeping crypto assets secure involves storing a 64 character alphanumeric private key. If the key is lost, the assets are effectively lost too.
Assets can be stored online, in so-called hot wallets, which are convenient to trade though vulnerable to being hacked, or in ‘cold’ offline storage solutions, safe from hacks, but often inconvenient to access frequently.
Over US$800mil worth of crypto currencies were stolen in the first half of this year according to data from Autonomous NEXT, a financial research firm.
Some institutions have started working to solve this problem, and may provide fierce competition to the incumbent players.
This year, Fidelity, and a group including Japanese investment bank Nomura have launched platforms that will offer custody services for digital assets.
Despite the industry’s complaints, insurers say that they do offer cover. Risk advisor Aon, received some two dozen inquiries this year from exchanges and crypto vaults seeking insurance, according to Thomas Cain, regional director, commercial risk solutions, at Aon’s Asian financial services and professions group.
“It is not difficult to insure companies that hold large amounts of crypto assets, but given the newness of the asset class and the publicity some of the crypto breaches have received, applicants need to make an effort to distinguish themselves,” Cain said.
The industry also says it is getting closer to solving the custody problem.
“This year there have been a number of developments, and some providers have developed custody solutions suitable for institutional clients’ needs,” said Tony Gravanis, managing director investments at blockchain investment firm Kenetic Capital.
“Players at the top end of the market have also been able to get insurance,” he said.
But this is not the case for all.
One cryptocurrency broker, declining to be named because of the subject’s sensitivity, said insurers struggled to understand the new technology and its implications, and that even those who were prepared to provide insurance would only offer limited cover. “We’ve not yet found an insurer who will offer coverage of a meaningful enough size to make it worthwhile,” he said. – Reuters
CTECH’S THURSDAY ROUNDUP OF ISRAELI TECH NEWS
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Acquisition by Medtronic complete, Mazor delists. Medtronic paid $1.3 billion in cash for the Israeli surgical robotics company. Including Medtronic’s existing stake, the deal is valued at $1.7 billion. Read more
Israelis receive 8.5 spam calls a month, according to Truecaller. The country ranked last among the top 20 countries affected by spam calls in 2018, according to a new report released by the company. Read more
Innoviz expands globally, sets up a commercial manufacturing line in China.The Israel-based LiDAR maker has doubled its employee count in the past year and intends to recruit additional personnel for research and development, business and sales. Read more
Particle analyzer company PML sold following liquidation. The company developed electro-optical systems for monitoring and measuring fluid particle sizes and concentration.