Court allows Vodacom to seek review in multimillion-rand Please Call Me compensation case

Nkosana Makate, the inventor of 'Please Call Me' braces for a Supreme Court of Appeal challenge with Vodacom.

Nkosana Makate, the inventor of ‘Please Call Me’ braces for a Supreme Court of Appeal challenge with Vodacom. Leon Sadiki

Vodacom has been granted leave to appeal a February court ruling that found in favour of ‘Please Call Me’ inventor Nkosana Makate, potentially entitling him to a much larger amount than the R47-million settlement previously offered by the mobile phone operator following a 2019 court ruling.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday allowed Vodacom to seek a review of the ruling that directed the operator to make a new determination on the settlement with Makate within one month.

In February, the court had ruled that Makate was entitled to 5% of the total voice revenue generated from the micro-text service from March 2001 to March 2021. Makate had rejected the R47-million settlement offer by Vodacom.

Vodacom argued that the court could only interfere with the amount the CEO had determined if “the R47 million awarded to Mr Makate was patently inequitable”, but that Judge Wendy Hughes had failed to do so.

In her ruling granting the appeal, Hughes denied that she failed to consider whether the amount was patently inequitable. But, she said, “in light of the submissions from both parties, I am persuaded that a compelling reason exists to grant leave to appeal”.

The court had also ordered that Makate is entitled to 27% of the revenue generated by the return of calls sent through the Please Call Me platform.

Hughes said the grounds advanced by Vodacom for appeal had “reasonable prospects to succeed”.

Makate said he and his legal representatives always knew that Vodacom would appeal, and are prepared for the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court if necessary.

“Judge Hughes still stands by her judgment, but nevertheless we were expecting this from Vodacom,” he told Fin24.

Makate and Vodacom have been involved in the protracted court battle over payment for the concept since 2008. The former Vodacom trainee accountant came up with the Please Call Me concept, a free micro-messaging service that allows network users to send people on the same service a call-back request.