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Rustenburg man Hope Hlahatsi was furious when he saw a photo of himself in a newspaper advert.
When agents of hotel chain Southern Sun asked him to pose for a picture, he assumed he would get paid if the photo was used.
Advertising industry insiders said he should have signed a contract before participating as a model.
"Well-known agencies are regulated by the National Association of Model Agencies (Noma) and there is a legal contract approved by the Association of Marketers and Advertisers in the country," said Ogilvy South Africa art buyer Mare Hofmeyer.
"Whenever we cast a model through an agency, we produce a contract and the money paid to the model is regulated by Noma rates depending on the category of the advertisement to be produced.
Is there a legal solution to the issue?
"He can sue under unjustified enrichment, if he proves that the hotel is deriving a benefit from him being in the advert. Then he can claim that he is entitled to a portion of that benefit," explained Wamaitha Mwaniki, lawyer, Cliffe Dekker Inc.
"Since he didn't sign a contract it makes it hard for the court to grant him his claims as there is also no benchmark to state how much is owed to him."
Southern Sun's advertising agency disputes Hlahatsi's story, saying it has not used anyone from Rustenburg for any of its advertisements and is unaware of this case.