Big Vodacom Please Call Me fight – What happens next

Nkosana Makate and Vodacom are set to be back in court next month.

Makate’s feud with the operator dates back to 2001, when he shared his idea for a Please Call Me-type service with former Director of Product Development at Vodacom Philip Geissler.

Following a prolonged legal battle, the Constitutional Court found in 2016 that Makate was entitled to compensation and directed the parties to negotiate in good faith to determine the amount.

In 2019, it was revealed by Makate that Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub offered Makate compensation of R47 million for his idea.

This was not enough for Makate, however. He declined the offer and called it “shocking and an insult”.

According to his team’s calculations, Vodacom had collected R205 billion in revenue from the Please Call Me service. Makate said he wanted 5% of this revenue, which equates to around R10.25 billion.

However, subsequent reports have suggested that Makate now seeks interest accumulated over the period as well, bringing the total claim to R20 billion.

More documents wanted

In the most recent development, Makate filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court in December 2019 to force Joosub to disclose the financial documents that were purportedly used to come up with the settlement of R47 million.

“Vodacom has in its possession an interlocutory application initiated by Mr Makate, seeking to compel the Vodacom Group CEO to share certain source documentation which he purportedly used to determine the quantum of reasonable compensation payable to Mr Makate,” Vodacom stated.

MyBroadband contacted Makate and was referred to his legal team for an update on the case. Makate’s legal firm, Stemela and Lubbe, said that the parties are not engaged in any discussions at present.

“The parties are not engaged in further discussions, as they are busy with the exchange of pleadings.”

Asked whether Makate is still seeking R20 billion in compensation for his Please Call Me idea, Stemela and Lubbe would not elaborate on exact amounts.

“Our client is hoping to receive fair and reasonable compensation as directed by the Constitutional Court. The review court will have to decide if the determination made by the CEO complies with such criteria,” the firm said.

Next court date

The application to provide further documentation has been enrolled in the North Gauteng High Court for 12 March 2020, Makate’s law firm confirmed.

“The court will hear arguments and will then decide if any further documents should be provided to Mr Makate.”

Makate previously failed to convince the Constitutional Court that Vodacom’s financial records are sufficient to determine revenue generated from the Please Call Me service.

The truth

The battle between Makate and Vodacom is essentially irrelevant according to Ari Kahn, however, who previously consulted for MTN and created the “Call Me” technology in 2000.

He said Vodacom has in private acknowledged him as the inventor of the service, and the SA Patent Office granted the Call Me patent to Kahn and MTN, and recognised Kahn as the inventor, on 22 January 2001.

As the true Please Call Me inventor, Kahn believes Makate should not get a cent from Vodacom for his “invention”.

Vodacom publicly admitted in early 2019 that the Please Call Me was invented and subsequently patented by MTN before Makate came up with the idea.

Now read: Vodacom and MTN make it impossible for us to compete – Telkom

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Big Vodacom Please Call Me fight – What happens next