A man promised someone R1 million over WhatsApp – now the Supreme Court will decide if he has to pay up

 ·20 Nov 2019

South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal is set to decide on Wednesday (20 November) whether a statement made over WhatsApp is legally binding.

Netwerk24 reports that the case centres around a man who won R20.8 million as part of the national lottery jackpot.

Six months after winning the jackpot, the man sent a WhatsApp message to the mother of his 16-year old daughter stating: “If I get R20m I can give my children R1m and remain with R13m. I will just stay at home and not driving up and down looking for tenders”.

Upon finding out that he had, in fact, won the lottery the woman claimed that the message was binding and had been accepted.

The Limpopo High Court subsequently ruled that the R1 million message was a binding offer, with the Supreme Court of Appeal now set to either confirm or overrule this decision.

You can find the High Court’s original ruling below:

WhatsApp High Court Ruling by BusinessTech on Scribd

Electronic Communications and Transactions Act

According to Dommisse Attorneys, the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act recognises electronic messages (or data messages) as the functional equivalent of writing, meaning that data messages have the same legal validity as content written on paper.

This results in any formality requiring writing to be met when the information is in the form of a data message, it said.

“The validity of electronic messages was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal  in November 2014 in the case of Spring Forest Trading v Wilberry (Pty) Ltd.

“The court held that variations to an agreement between the parties made via email were binding – the arguments put forth were that the variation to the agreement was required to be made in writing and signed by both parties in order for it to be valid and that this requirement had not been met because the variations were only discussed and agreed to via email.

“The court stated that the email signatures at the bottom of the emails amount to signatures and that the email messages constituted writing in terms of ECTA,” it said.

Read: Big changes coming to WhatsApp

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