Major blow for Vodacom in Please Call Me court case

The protracted legal battle spanning almost two decades between Vodacom Group and its former employee, Nkosana Makate, the alleged originator of the “please call me” service, continues to unfold.

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The Supreme Court of Appeal has rejected Vodacom’s application for leave to appeal, upholding an earlier High Court ruling. Consequently, the telecommunications giant’s CEO, Shameel Joosub, is instructed to propose a new settlement offer to Makate, based on the assumption of an 18-year contract with the company.

Unless Vodacom pursues the matter further in the Constitutional Court, it seems probable that the compensation owed to Makate will far exceed the R47 million previously offered, a proposal that Makate had rejected.

In February 2022, the High Court in Pretoria determined that Vodacom’s compensation offer to Makate for his alleged invention of the “please call me” service was inadequate and mandated a higher settlement. Vodacom then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

While the originator of the “please call me” concept remains contentious, the Constitutional Court affirmed Makate’s entitlement to compensation for his role in its creation, deferring the determination of the exact payout to Joosub.

High Court Justice Wendy Hughes specified that Makate should receive 5% of the total voice revenue generated by the “please call me” service over a 20-year span, potentially amounting to billions in compensation.

Following the Supreme Court’s rejection of Vodacom’s appeal, detailed guidelines have been provided for determining fair compensation, factoring in inflation over the relevant period. Vodacom is instructed to comply with these directives within 30 days.

While Vodacom’s hopes for a favourable outcome were dashed by the Supreme Court’s decision, the appeals court outlined specific orders:

  • The compensation decision made by Vodacom in January 2019 is annulled.
  • Makate is entitled to receive 5-7.5% of the total revenue from the “please call me” service over an 18-year period, with added interest.
  • Vodacom is responsible for covering the negotiation costs stipulated in the Constitutional Court’s earlier ruling.

In response to the Supreme Court’s judgment, Vodacom expressed its intention to seek leave to appeal the decision in the Constitutional Court.