Cell C said in a statement that it is disappointed with the judgment handed down by Judge Sharise Weiner in the South Gauteng High Court today (Thursday, 13 November 2014).
This comes after Weiner ruled that Cell C’s application was not urgent, and found that the man who placed the banner, George Prokas, had given fair comment based on his honest opinion of the service he received from Cell C.
“The Judge did not address our primary reason for taking this matter to court, namely the protection of the personal information and privacy of our employee, Riaan van Rooyen,” Cell C said.
“As a result of the banner being erected, Riaan has been harassed and verbally abused,” said Cell C. “People should reasonably ask what they would expect their companies to do if they were subject to this kind of harassment and abuse simply as a result of them doing their job.”
The mobile operator said that it found it surprising that with the increased focus and awareness of the protection of personal information, the publication of Van Rooyen’s personal information was not addressed in the judgment.
“The undertaking made by Mr Prokas not to re-publish this personal information was only given to the court during argument yesterday, and as a result of the urgent application having been brought by Cell C,” the statement continued.
Major consequences for businesses
Cell C also warned that the judgment has far-reaching consequences for any business in South Africa.
“From the large business to the corner shop, businesses now face the risk of having their reputations tarnished by an individual who can make defamatory statements, as long as this is expressed as an opinion of personal experience with only cursory and, in our view, selectively chosen factual foundations,” the operator argued.
“The judgment also suggests that businesses should urgently apply to court for an interdict as soon as somebody merely threatens them with the publication of unfounded defamatory statements,” it added. “This is impractical.”
Prokas’ R5,754 bill from his own use: Cell C
Cell C went on to say that media reports about Prokas’ claim that he was billed for somebody else’s use of his cellphone are incorrect.
“The underlying fact is that Mr Prokas owes Cell C for services rendered and these will be pursued in a separate legal process,” Cell C said.
It asserted that despite his negative comments on his banner, Prokas continues to use Cell C’s services.
Cell C said that “on the face of it” the judgment contains fundamental errors that have wide-reaching implications.
“Irrespective of the specific issues in this particular matter, these errors need to be rectified and so Cell C is considering appealing the decision,” the mobile network operator said.
“Mr Prokas had several alternative channels at his disposal and it is most unfortunate that he chose to deal with the matter in this way,” said Cell C.