Court vic­tory for disgruntled Cell C cus­tomer

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

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

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