- Nkosana Makate, the creator of ‘Please Call Me,’ has expressed his delight with the Supreme Court of Appeal's recent decision. He described the lengthy legal dispute with Vodacom as not child's play, stating that the sacrifice has been significant.
- This news comes after the South African telco suffered another setback in its legal battle against the ‘Please Call Me’ service. The Court directed Vodacom to determine new compensation for Makate within 30 days of the order.
- However, Vodacom expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling and vowed to pursue an appeal before the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
According to court documents, Vodacom is obligated to pay Makate 5% to 7.5% of the total voice revenue generated by the Please Call Me service. This includes interest and revenues from prepaid or contract offerings from March 2001 to March 2021 (20 years).
The legal dispute between Makate and Vodacom over the 'Please Call Me' product started in 2008.
In 2000, Makate approached Vodacom with the idea for "Please Call Me," allowing users to send a free message to other Vodacom users to request a call, even when credit is insufficient.
The mobile operator approved the idea and disclosed that 40,000 users had signed up for the service on launch day. Vodacom initially provided it for free but subsequently began to charge 15 cents for each transaction.
But things quickly turned sour when Vodacom allegedly broke its promise. While some reported that the telcos promised to give Makate a portion of their profits from the service, others indicated that the proportion is "5% of the proceeds generated from his invention."
These developments led to Makate filing a lawsuit against the company, which he had been fighting for over 15 years.
According to the ruling, Makate is entitled to 27% of the daily Please Call Me messages sent as revenue from return calls.
Besides, the ruling mandated that Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub recalculate "the annual effective rate." This rate should be a combination of the effective contract rate and the effective prepaid rate to assist in determining Makate's compensation.
The rates in each instance cannot be less than those set by South Africa's Independent Communications Authority.
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Vodacom Spokesperson Byron Kennedy said, “Vodacom is surprised and disappointed with the judgement and will bring an application for leave to appeal before the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
“In line with a 2016 Constitutional Court order, Vodacom’s CEO determined a reasonable compensation of R47 million to Makate for the Please Call Me idea.”
Meanwhile, Nkosana Makate also reacted, "I am thrilled with the judgement; it takes us a bit further and much closer to finality. It’s been a long time, the sacrifice has been huge, and a 15-year battle with a massive company like Vodacom is no child’s play.”
The recent Supreme Court of Appeal order nullified Joosub's R47 million ($2,486,589.61) offer. Makate previously declined the offer and filed an application with the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa seeking judicial review and nullification of the Vodacom Group CEO's decision.
On February 8, 2022, the High Court overturned the CEO of Vodacom's decision and ordered him to reconsider the settlement offered to Makate.
Meanwhile, later that month, Vodacom applied to appeal the High Court's judgement and order.
In addition, Vodacom charged Makate with a separate legal battle in Pretoria to have a 2020 court ruling, which directed the company to hand him copies of contracts, amended.
In September 2023, the court dismissed its variation application and ordered Vodacom to provide Makate with copies of value-added service contracts it had with other service providers, including those involving prepaid recharge, bulk messaging, the Look4Me service, Mobile Trip Sheet, Vodacom PayPoint, and the 082-911 emergency service.