Court victory for disgruntled Cell C customer
CELL C has been ordered to pay the legal fees of a client who erected a banner criticising its service.
“The legal costs are more than the cost of the banner,” said Raymond Druker, representing disgruntled Cell C client George Prokas, who reportedly spent R61 000 on the banner.
Druker was speaking to reporters yesterday after the High Court in Joburg dismissed Cell C’s urgent application to have the banner removed.
The banner, prominently displayed on a wall outside the World Wear Mall on Beyers Naudé Drive in Fairland, Randburg, originally read: “The most useless service provider in SA – Cell C Sandton City.” It gave the name of the franchise manager and his phone number, and claimed he had said his “unnamed executive head refuses to assist the customer”.
The franchise manager submitted that the statement was defamatory.
However, Judge Sharise Weiner found that in Prokas’s view, what he put up was true. She said criticism was protected as long as it held fair comment.
The judge dismissed Cell C’s urgent application. “The appli- cation is not urgent,” she said, adding that the damage had already been done.
She claimed that Prokas had alerted the network provider to his intention to erect the banner before it went up, so Cell C could have brought the matter to court then.
The dispute arose when Prokas bought a phone for his son from Cell C in 2013. However, the phone’s number belonged to someone else, who ran up a bill of R5 000 by the time Prokas ended the stop-order for the phone in October last year.
Prokas found out only when he was told he was blacklisted as a bad debtor because of the unpaid R5 000, when he tried to buy a car earlier this year.
He sought to have the bill waived by Cell C and to be removed from the list of bad debtors by the end of October this year. When the situation had not changed by then, Prokas threatened, in e-mail correspondence to Cell C, to put up the banner unless his complaints were dealt with. He did so when his complaints were not dealt with.
Druker said the ruling sent a message to other service providers to ensure that they satisfied their clients. – Sapa