Unsolicited text: MTN to pay N3m damages to Godfrey Eneye – Court
*Appeal Court cuts down judgement cost from N5m to N3m
Godfrey Eneye, a customer of MTN Nigeria who also happens to be a lawyer, has won N3 million in damages in a lawsuit against the telecommunication player which he alleged violated his privacy by giving his subscriber information to third-party entities to send him unsolicited texts.
“The respondent (MTN) offers and provides a bulk SMS message service to customers and permits the sending of bulk messages by individuals, organisations and other bodies through their network upon certain specified conditions agreed between the respondent and the respective subscribers to the said bulk SMS service,” read Eneye’s suit against MTN Nigeria.
While a Federal High Court in Abuja had already ruled in favour of Eneye (and awarded him N5 million in damages) in an earlier verdict, an Abuja Court of Appeal sealed the deal when it ruled that MTN Nigeria did indeed violated Eneye’s right to privacy by virtue of the innumerable text messages sent to him via MTN Nigeria’s bulk SMS service (which MTN offers to third-party entities).
Justice Emmanuel Agim, who delivered the verdict, said, “By giving those unknown persons and organisations access to the respondent’s MTN GSM phone number, to send text messages into it, the appellant violated the respondent’s fundamental right to privacy guaranteed by section 37 of the Constitution which includes the right to the privacy of a person’s telephone line.
“The said section 37 of the 1999 Constitution provides that, ‘The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic conversations is hereby guaranteed and protected’.
“The innumerable text messages without his consent at all times is a violation of his fundamental right to the privacy of his telephone conversations, correspondence and his person and telephone line and telephone message inbox.”
Eneye was also awarded N3 million in damages by the Appellate Court, down from the N5 million awarded by the Federal High Court in Abuja on the grounds that the lower court did not give any reasons for awarding the initial judgement cost.
MTN Nigeria has maintained that it did not disclose Eneye’s information to subscribers — a stance that did not sway the court on both occasions.
This may be a litmus test for the nation’s telecommunication companies who may face a barrage of litigations on unsolicited text messages through their playforms.
Will this instance serve as a deterrent to other telcos on unsolicited text messages? Are we about to see a new wave of court judgements in favour of subscribers? Or will MTN Nigeria appeal the judgement of the court to the Supreme court?