Rights of cus­tomer, Cell C de­bated

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - OMPHITLHETSE MOOKI omphitlhetse.mooki@inl.co.za

A CELL C man­ager whose name and con­tact de­tails were splashed on a banner put up by a disgruntled cus­tomer suf­fered abuse and was ex­posed to a bar­rage of ex­plicit texts.

This has emerged as mem­bers of the pub­lic wasted no time in us­ing con­tact de­tails printed on the Cell C “the most use­less ser­vice provider” banner to vent their own frus­tra­tions, or sim­ply send ex­plicit texts like “kiss my a**”.

And yes­ter­day in the Joburg High Court, one man’s right to pri­vacy were ar­gued against another’s right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion, as the mo­bile ser­vice provider took on George Prokas, the man be­hind the banner.

“He (Prokas) sub­jected Mr (Ri­aan) van Rooyen to the abuse… vi­o­lated his rights to pri­vacy and dig­nity. The pub­lic re­act­ing to that banner had felt free to fill in their own facts, and this is vis­i­ble from text mes­sages and so­cial me­dia re­sponses,” ad­vo­cate Christo­pher Whit­cutt SC ar­gued.

He said Prokas should be in­ter­dicted as he had “pub­lished a defam­a­tory state­ment”, a move strongly op­posed by Prokas’s ad­vo­cate, Shem Sy­mon SC, who said Cell C’s ac­tion was “a prover­bial storm in a tea cup” as Prokas was ex­er­cis­ing his right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion after Cell C wrongly billed him, and had him listed on ITC.

Prokas was told he was R5 000 in ar­rears, and when he con­tested this, as the num­ber was be­ing used by a per­son un­known to him, Cell C got him listed on ITC. De­spite prom­ises to have his name re­moved, Cell C had not done so after two weeks.

He had then ex­er­cised his free­dom of ex­pres­sion, putting up a banner which high­lighted his frus­tra­tions.

“He’s a con­sumer, he stands for free­dom of speech. What they (Cell C) will do with this or­der is that they will pre­vent this free­dom. This at­tempt to sti­fle free speech is an at­tempt to sti­fle crit­i­cism,” Sy­mon said.

He dis­missed ar­gu­ments that Prokas had per­pet­u­ated abuse suf­fered by Van Rooyen, say­ing “we didn’t so­licit other peo­ple to post com­ments”.

“What we have is a con­certed con­sumer cry. If you put bill­boards all over the coun­try pur­port­ing your virtue, then you shouldn’t have a prob­lem with some­one putting up a banner ques­tion­ing that,” Sy­mon added.

He said the line “Cell C’s Ri­aan van Rooyen, ‘fran­chise man­ager’, says his un­named ‘ex­ec­u­tive head’ re­fused to as­sist the cus­tomer” was fac­tual, in that Prokas had been ig­nored.

Judg­ment was ex­pected to­day.

PIC­TURES: CHRIS COLLINGRIDGE

AFTER: The bill­board com­mu­ni­cat­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the ser­vice provider has been de­faced, re­flect­ing an op­po­site view­point.

BE­FORE: A pri­vate bill­board dis­plays a cus­tomer’s anger di­rected at ser­vice provider Cell C. The board is in full view of the pub­lic and mo­torists in Bey­ers Naudé Drive, a busy ar­te­rial, in Fair­land.

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