Nigerians have the right to sue celebrities who mislead them into patronizing fraudulent brands, according to human rights lawyer Pelumi Olajengbesi.
A celebrity cannot claim innocence when the companies they endorse and promote as genuine end up swindling their customers, Olajengbensi said on Tuesday.
If something goes wrong, the law will still hold a brand ambassador liable, regardless of whether or not the promoter intended it.
He said, “Often, the Brand Ambassadors are either seen consuming the products or making representations to the public that the organization they are promoting have been tested and trusted.
“Relying on this, many innocent members of the public believe and act on the representation of the so-called celebrity and many times, suffer grievous damages to their health or risk the loss of their funds by trusting the brands. By virtue of investing in an organisation which a celebrity Brand Ambassador had advertised and held out as genuine, members of the public become victims of misplaced trust. In view of this, it is essential that both the Brand Ambassadors and the general public understand their duties and liabilities under the extant laws.
“To start with, a person found wanting in this regard may be guilty of misrepresentation. From whatever angle one looks at the capacity of those advertising on behalf of the organisation; Brand Ambassadors, Face of Organisation, promoter or agent, one thing is certain; they are making representations to the public and should the representations turn out to be the adverse of what they represented, they shall be held liable for misrepresentation.
“‘Misrepresentation’ is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, Eighth Edition to mean, “The act of making a false or misleading assertion about something usually with the intent to deceive. The word denotes not just written or spoken words but also any other conduct that amounts to false assertion”.
“Misrepresentation is the act of inducing someone to do what they ordinarily wouldn’t have done. The essential elements herein are that the representation was made and that an innocent party acted on the representation which resulted in a loss.
“It is immaterial whether or not the representor intended the outcome. This is because the Supreme Court in Afegbai v. A.G Edo State & Anor. (2001) LPELR-193 (SC) has stated that the state of mind, knowledge or belief of the representor is immaterial in determining whether or not there is a misrepresentation.
“Secondly, a Brand Ambassador shoulders the responsibility which is in tandem with the responsibility of a promoter. By virtue of Section 61 and 62 of the Company and Allied Matters Act, their liability is not only to the public but even to the organisation they represent.
“In a similar view, under both Criminal and Penal Codes, whoever induces another to do what they wouldn’t have wilfully done is said to have committed cheating if such inducement resulted in the loss of pecuniary or proprietary rights. See Section 320 1(b) of Penal Code.
“Consequently, it goes without saying that a celebrity who holds himself out as an agent, promoter or ambassador of a company and misled members of the society to believe in a state of affairs which turn out false, is guilty and liable upon conviction. It is not a defence that the so-called ambassador had a good motive, what the law looks into is the existence of a wrongful misrepresentation which the public acted upon and which resulted in damages.”
Recently, some Nigerians called on security operatives to arrest some celebrities, including Davido, Rema, and Williams Uchemba for endorsing and advertising a Ponzi scheme company, RackSterli, which has allegedly defrauded many people.