Appeal Decision: Nova Property Group vs Personal Finance

Decision: Application for leave to appeal

Applicant: Nova Property Group

Respondent: Personal Finance

Matter No: 19/12/2014

                                                         DECISION: APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

[1]      Ms D Hease submitted a complaint on behalf of the Nova Property Group (“applicant”) against Personal Finance (“respondent”) on 5 December 2014.  This followed an article in the respondent’s edition of 20 September 2014.

[2]      The article was critical of the appellant and the way it did business.  The applicant complained, inter alia, that respondent had set out “to deliberately damage the reputation of the Group, in the main, based on unsubstantiated statements, unbalanced reporting and incorrect and manufactured ‘facts’”.  Applicant further alleged that as a result of the article “the ability of the Nova Group to generate cash flow to repay Debenture Holders is being severely compromised”.  The respondent stood its ground.

[3]      The respondent argued that Ms Hease filed the complained too long after the publication of the article: “The complaint was filed 76 days after publication.  She has not applied for condonation, nor has she presented any facts that explain the delay.  Her complaint should therefore be dismissed without reference to the merits thereof”.

[4]      On 29 January 2015, the Press Ombud informed the appellant that he could not entertain the complaint since it was lodged too long after the publication complained of, although appellant was aware of the existence of the Ombudsman’s office.

[5]      In fact, the complaints, of a similar nature, were lodged against the five respondents.  They were all dealt with the same way by the Ombudsman.

[6]      The applicant now seeks leave to appeal the Ombudsman’s Ruling, to the Appeals Board in respect of all the complaints.

[7]      In explaining why the complaints were not lodged in time, the applicant advances certain points.  Unfortunately, I cannot consider these submissions because they are not properly before me. The applicant should have made an application to the Ombudsman for the condonation of the late filing of the complaints, with adequate explanation for the delay. This was not done.  In the circumstances, I cannot entertain the application and it is therefore dismissed.

Dated this 28th day of March 2015.

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel.