Home Crime and Courts Econet barred from sending unsolicited Covid-19 SMS updates

Econet barred from sending unsolicited Covid-19 SMS updates

by Kudakwashe Vhenge

By Staff Reporter

The High Court has ordered Econet Wireless to stop sending unsolicited Covid-19 SMS updates to millions of its customers.

Justice David Mangota of the Harare High Court on Wednesday granted an interim order against Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile phone company by subscribers after a Harare lawyer told the court that “his disposition is to avoid depressing news” following the death of his father from the virus in January.

Sikhumbuzo Moyo said he had made several requests to Econet to stop sending him the “unwanted, mentally depressing messages” to no avail, prompting him to seek the court’s protection on an urgent basis.

The messages offend several of his constitutional rights including “the right to privacy, the right to free association and the freedom from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment,” Moyo’s lawyers said.

The lawyers said the violation of Moyo’s constitutional rights was “current” as Econet continued sending the texts carrying daily Covid-19 statistics, and he feared the “unwarranted invasion of his constitutional rights will continue.”

An interim order signed by Justice Mangota said: “The unilateral transmission of messages to applicant by the respondent service provider is illegal, wrongful and unconstitutional.

“It is declared that respondent’s action in so far as continued communication was made to the applicant of traumatizing information, violated Section 53 and Section 57 of the constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No 20 of 2013.

“It is declared that the action of the respondent in unilaterally supplying applicant’s details to a service platform and or third party for transmission of information unrelated to service provision and transmission of uninvited information is a violation of contractual relationship between the parties.

“The respondent shall forthwith and no later than 12 hours of granting of this order suspend all Covid-19 related messages transmission to the applicant’s mobile number 0777*******.”

Econet has 10 days to challenge the provisional order.
The interim order, if confirmed, will have far reaching implications for mobile phone companies which have in the past availed their services to government announcements and the Zanu PF party in the run-up to the 2018 elections.

One lawyer took Econet to court after millions of its customers received unsolicited messages from Zanu PF canvassing for votes for President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the party’s candidates for local authority and parliamentary ballots. The case was never set down for hearing and was struck off the roll.

Related Articles