‘Vrot’ rosé row causes a Crackling headache
Liquor store owner alleges ‘worm-like’ objects found in Distell’s bottles have destroyed his business. Court will decide
It allegedly took two “contaminated” bottles of Autumn Harvest Crackling Rosé to ruin the reputation of a Joburg liquor supplier, and now he’s suing Distell, the company that made the offending bottles, for R500,000.
Fortunatus Ogbonna and his lawyer, Kingdom Onah, still can’t identify the “worm-like” object that was found inside the bottles, but the business owner said that because of them, he’s been the subject of xenophobic threats and a major loss in business.
In his affidavit, submitted to the High Court in Johannesburg as part of the damages claim against beverage company Distell, Ogbonna demands compensation for reputational loss.
On November 19 2017, Ogbonna claims he bought a case of 12 Autumn Harvest Rosé wine bottles from his usual supplier, to be sold at his shop, the Breakaway Liquor Store in Malvern.
The following day, he sold what he later discovered was the first bottle of contaminated wine to a young woman. “She then returned the contaminated bottle on the same day, stating that the sealed bottle was contaminated with a foreign object inside it. She threatened to approach the media and publicise that I sell contaminated drinks and report me to the police,” he wrote.
Eventually, Ogbonna reached a settlement with the woman “in order to protect the good name and reputation of my business”.
He said he destroyed the first bottle, hoping to potentially prevent it from accidentally being sold again. A week later, a second bottle was sold to yet another customer – also containing a foreign object. “I offered to refund her for the contaminated bottle but she refused,” he wrote, claiming he had to reach another settlement agreement to try to protect his reputation.
Speaking to Times Select, Ogbonna has said because he is a foreign business owner, the community was already suspicious of him. After these events, rumours that he was intentionally selling contaminated wine were circulating, and he has received threats. “There was backlash from his community. He was fearing for his life,” said Onah.
“I’m still operating, but even up until now, there’s less trust from my customers. It was irreversible damage. As a small business owner, I know that my company’s image is at stake. I don’t know why bigger companies like Distell don’t care. The manufacturers must take responsibility,” said Ogbonna.
“People work their whole lives to build up a reputation – for a business that’s important above all,” he said.
Ogbonna also submitted a financial report of his business, constructed by P Mapfumo Accountants and Auditors, that suggests between 2017 and 2018, his accumulated profit had dropped by more than R100,000.
Because of this, his civil claim is seeking R250,000 for “patrimonial loss in respect to the damages suffered for the good will and reputation of Breakaway Liquor Store”, R248,000 for “loss of income arising from reputational damage sustained”, and R2,000 for “actual loss sustained in respect to refunds/reimbursements made”.
Onah confirmed that over the past year, he had tried to reach an out-of-court settlement with Distell, but that after negotiations failed, the case would have to be ventilated at the High Court. The civil proceedings are set down for April, which was confirmed by Distell spokesperson Dennis Matsane.
“When the matter was initially brought to Distell’s attention, the company conducted its own investigations to ascertain the validity of the claim. Our view is that Fortune Teller Investments’ claim has no merit and we are confident that the court process will confirm this view,” Matsane said in a written reply to queries from Times Select.