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VCL under fire over ‘privacy breach’

Business

Staff Reporter

In a startling legal showdown, Hlahlobo Moruri, a Sehlabeng Sa Thuathe resident has launched a staggering M650,000 lawsuit against VCL Financial Services.

The bone of contention is violation of Moruri’s privacy rights by VCL Financial Services, whom Moruri alleges unjustly profited at his expense.

He is demanding restitution of M400,000 for infringement upon his privacy for unauthorized use of his image by the financial institution.

Additionally, Moruri seeks M250,000 in damages for what he perceives as unjust enrichment derived from exploiting his persona.

Alternatively, Moruri presents a unique stipulation: the disclosure of VCL Financial Services’ audited financial statements to reveal the exact revenue generated from the marketing campaigns using his image.

And here is the kicker – upon such revelation, he vehemently demands a sizable share – a significant 60 percent of the proceeds derived from these promotions.

The legal narrative unfurled on November 7, 2023, when Moruri received a jolting revelation from a friend via their social club’s WhatsApp group. An advertisement poster had surfaced, featuring someone eerily resembling him, boldly showcased by VCL Financial Services.

“The advertisement poster contains an image and likeness of the Plaintiff. It clearly shows the face of a man, who himself is holding a cellphone and two cans of local Maluti alcoholic beverages, while wearing a hat, spectacles and a blue raincoat. Features which together identify as the Plaintiff,” reads the court papers.

The continue: “Furthermore, boldly over the image and likeness of the Plaintiff, lies the promotional and advertisement information of the Defendant as well as its commercial logo. The information reads as follows; ‘Win with M-Pesa; Stand a chance to win amazing prizes when purchasing Maluti 6 Pack with the M-Pesa at the participating outlets. Dial *200# or use the M-Pesa App to buy’.

“Then the words ‘Proudly sponsored by…’ appear at the right-hand lower corner of the poster with a commercial logo of the Defendant.”

Moruri narrates in court papers that adding to his dismay, a further revelation awaited him on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Tanki Pule, known as Tichere Pule in social and business circles, purportedly an ambassador and promoter linked to VCL Financial Services, had shared the controversial advertisement on his Facebook page.

He vehemently asserts that he had neither expressly nor implicitly granted VCL Financial Services or its affiliates permission to employ his image and likeness in their commercial ventures, prompting this legal pursuit for justice and reparation.

He further asserted that VCL Financial Services had no legal justification to exploit his image and likeness for its financial gain, blatantly violating his right to privacy as safeguarded by Lesotho’s pertinent Data Protection legislation.

“The Plaintiff is aggrieved by the actions of Defendant, who despite having been notified of this unlawful act has neglected and/or refused, through the denial of its liability, to do the right by the Plaintiff leaving Plaintiff with no other option but to approach the honourable Court for an effective relief,” reads the court papers.

VCL Financial Services emerged in 2021 when the telecommunications titan, Vodacom Lesotho (VCL), announced a pivotal restructuring. The M-Pesa division would now function as an autonomous entity under the newly founded VCL Financial Services.

Under the authorisation of the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL), this freshly minted venture became a licensed financial services provider, wholly owned by VCL, as per the disclosures made by the telecommunications giant during its inauguration.

According to VCL’s statements at that time, M-Pesa had undergone a remarkable ascent, swelling from a mere 1,900 registered customers to a staggering count of over 1 million, with monthly transaction values skyrocketing past M1 billion.

Initially rooted as a telecommunications entity, VCL leapt into the burgeoning domain of mobile finance when it launched M-Pesa, its mobile phone-based money transfer and payment service, back in July 2013.

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