In a significant victory for Kenneth Nkosana Makate, the creator of the “Please Call Me” feature, the Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed Vodacom’s appeal and ordered the cellphone network service provider to pay Makate a percentage of the revenue generated by the service over the past 18 years.
This ruling comes after a protracted legal battle that began in November 2000 when Makate, a former Vodacom employee, came up with the innovative feature.
Makate’s idea for the “Please Call Me” feature originated over 20 years ago when he was in a long-distance relationship with his now wife, who was a student at the time.
Faced with difficulties in communication, Makate devised the feature to enable users to send a free message requesting a call back.
The service gained immense popularity, but Makate’s compensation was initially promised by a former Vodacom chief executive and later reneged upon when the feature became a success.
In April 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled in Makate’s favour, ordering Vodacom’s chief executive to determine a reasonable compensation amount.
Vodacom initially offered Makate R47 million, which was rejected by Makate and his legal team, who believed fair compensation should be closer to R28 and R110 billion.
In the recent ruling, Judge Wendy Hughes criticised Vodacom’s conservative calculations and determined that the offered amount was far too low for Makate’s brilliant invention. As a result, Vodacom has been instructed to determine a fair compensation amount within 30 days.
The legal battle between Makate and Vodacom has spanned nearly a decade since the Constitutional Court’s ruling. This latest decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal brings hope for a resolution that will provide Makate with the fair and reasonable compensation he deserves for his groundbreaking invention.