Please Call Me inventor: ‘I haven’t agreed on anything with Vodacom’

Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate said he has not reached an agreement with telecommunications giant Vodacom over compensation, more than two years after the Constitutional Court ordered that he must be paid.

“I would like to make it very clear that I have not agreed on anything with Vodacom. The amount that the Group CEO [Shameel Joosub] has determined is shocking and an insult,” Makate said in a Whatsapp message to Moneyweb.

Makate was reacting to a statement by Vodacom on Saturday that Joosub had decided on a “reasonable compensation” amount after both parties held the latest round of oral hearings in October 2018.  

Read: Vodacom pays ex-worker for ‘Please Call Me’ idea after deadlock

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said Joosub had met with Makate’s legal representatives to convey “his decision and determination” on compensation and that Makate’s funds “will be transferred as soon as we have the banking account details.”

“Vodacom considers the matter as finally settled and closed,” Kennedy said in a statement. The company did not disclose the amount set for compensation, citing a confidentiality agreement signed by both parties.

Makate’s disagreement with Vodacom over compensation for the Please Call Me invention adds another twist to what is shaping up to be a protracted battle between both parties.

Makate said he is currently being advised by his legal team on remedies available, which he will unveil in “the weeks to come”.

“Moreover, Vodacom has not apologised for their despicable conduct for the past 18 years as found by the Constitutional Court,” he said.

Talks between Vodacom and Makate have stalled since the court ordered on April 26 2016, that both parties enter into good faith negotiations to determine reasonable compensation for the Please Call Me invention. Please Call Me is a free service which enables a user without airtime to send a text to be called back.

The court order also enabled Joosub to arbitrate negotiations should a deadlock on compensation materialise.

Read: Constitutional Court orders Vodacom to compensate Nkosana Makate

and: How Nkosana Makate won the Please Call Me case

Talks began to deadlock in December 2017, paving the way for Joosub to assume his deadlock-breaking role, which involved receiving oral and written representations from both Vodacom and Makate’s legal team.

In theory, the matter has been settled as Vodacom and Makate have complied with the court’s order of entering compensation negotiations. But the actual compensation process is still pending.

Compensation amount

In complaints filed to the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors and Companies and Intellectual Property Commission in April 2018 against Vodacom and its auditor PwC, for misrepresentation of annual financial statements, Makate said the telecommunications giant offered him R10 million as compensation.

This figure is believed to be lower than Makate’s legal fees, which are estimated to run in millions of rands, that he incurred for fighting Vodacom in court for more than ten years.

Makate’s legal representatives and a team of experts believe that his compensation runs into billions of rands. In one of his affidavits submitted to court, Makate’s team concluded in 2015 that the Please Call Me invention generated R70 billion in revenue for Vodacom.

Makate said he is entitled to a 15% share of the revenues as compensation (estimated to be up to R10.5 billion) – the percentage that was his agreement with Vodacom when he invented Please Call Me in 2000.