Johannesburg tightens billboard laws

Johannesburg - The City of Johannesburg has toughened up on its outdoor advertising rules and will place violations in the same category as building hijacking, it said on Sunday.

"The city is now getting tough on several offending companies - including top international brands - in a new drive to avert loss of revenue and possibly recoup some of the lost revenue as well as ensure compliance," said Jack Sekgobela, manager of outdoor advertising in the city's planning department.

He stated the city was losing millions each year to illegal outdoor advertising.

READ: Cell C billboard: Court to hear arguments

It would audit "each and every sign" to verify which ones are legal and which are not and how much revenue is being lost.

He said the old by-laws allowed offenders to use loopholes.

"The offenders would deliberately ignore our officials when approached to find amicable solutions. The court processes are lengthy, and even when the matter eventually gets to be heard, these companies get a slap on the wrist," he said.

The revised by-laws would allow the city to institute civil claims against offenders.

It has started laying criminal charges against landlords of premises on which billboards are erected, the advertising agency, the company being advertised, and its directors and shareholders.

He said the outdoor advertising and billboards by-laws do not allow for illegal billboards to be erected without the city's permission.

Most of the billboards were erected at night or over weekends by unknown people.

The approval process for outdoor advertising had also been streamlined with no current applications in the system to be processed or approved.

A task team including the police, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks and the Johannesburg metro has now been set up to tackle the problem.

He said the city won a case against international electronics company, Samsung last year after a four-year legal battle.

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