Telecommunications company, Airtel Nigeria has been fined by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for violating a customer’s right to privacy by sending him unsolicited messages.
According to PM News, Justice Jude Okeke who presided over the matter, held that Airtel’s action infringed on the customer, Mr Emmanuel Anene’s right to privacy.
Mr Anene had approached the court on December 21, 2015, to challenge the invasion of his privacy by the telecommunications firm through unsolicited messages – a plight many Nigerians have complained about.
Airtel, like a number of other major telecom companies such as MTN Nigeria and Etisalat have over time sent unwanted messages and placed automated calls to customers to advertise various products.
One Airtel customer’s experience inspired an angry call to the company’s customer service, a recording of which was adapted by Instagram comedian, Gloria Oloruntobi for the skit below:
Concerned about the worrying trend, industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) last July issued a new regulation that prohibited the unsolicited messages and calls. The NCC regulation stipulated a fine between N5m and N10m for violations of the rule.
At the hearing of Mr Anene’s suit on Wednesday, it was discovered that Airtel had failed to provide any defence for its action for which the plaintiff had demanded a whopping sum of N200 million as compensation.
The judge held that the crucial issue that calls for determination here was whether or not that the plaintiff evidence made out a case to justify the claims in the reliefs he sought.
The court records showed that the plaintiff evidence of claims was served on the defendant and led evidence in the support of same.
“The defendant who was afforded the opportunity failed to file a statement of defence contradicting the plaintiff’s statement of claim or fails to lead evidence in challenge to the claims; it means he had admitted the facts,” the judge held.
Justice Okeke held further that:
“In every wrong there must be a remedy, to vindicate the plaintiff’s right which has been violated in the forth going circumstance by the defendant; the plaintiff shall be awarded damages based on the discretion of the court.
“Against this background putting into consideration the obvious inconveniences, discomfort and the embarrassments the plaintiff had undeniably gone through, the defendant has been directed to pay to the plaintiff damages, not the N200 million the plaintiff asked for but N5 million only.”
The sanction against the telecoms company may open a new window of similar actions and perhaps force Airtel and other telecom companies to exercise some restraint and comply with the NCC regulations which that body has in any case failed to enforce.