‘Please call me’ inventor insulted by Vodacom deal offer
NKOSANA Makate, the man credited with inventing the “Please Call
Me” call-back service, has called a compensation deal by his former employer, Vodacom, an insult.
Vodacom, according to Makate, gave him the offer on Wednesday, of what they are referring to as “reasonable compensation”.
“There is absolutely no agreement. This is an insult, and it is shocking. It is horrendous,” said Makate.
He added that he was in a meeting with his legal team to see what options were available to him.
The deal comes almost a decade after Makate started court proceedings against Vodacom for credit and financial compensation for the service that allows customers with a zero balance on their mobile phones to contact someone free of charge with the SMS message ‘Please Call Me’.
Makate came up with the idea to develop the service, although a former chief executive officer first took credit for the product.
“Vodacom can confirm that the group CEO has met with the legal representatives to convey his decision and determination on reasonable compensation,” spokesperson Byron Kennedy said in response to questions. “In the spirit of the confidentiality agreement both parties signed as part of the negotiating process, Vodacom will not disclose the amount set by the CEO.”
Makate added in a statement: “Vodacom has not apologised for their despicable conduct for the past 18 years as found by the Constitutional Court.” He did not say what was offered by Vodacom.
Makate, 42, took the idea to Vodacom’s product-development team while he was working in the finance division in the early 2000s.
Alan Knott-craig, who was the CEO at the time, had to determine reasonable compensation for the idea, which didn’t happen then.
After lengthy court proceedings and a deadlock in negotiations in October last year, current CEO Shameel Joosub has now decided on fair compensation for the idea.
About 140 000 customers made use of the service on its first day in operation. An initial development plan in 2001 for ‘Please Call Me’ said Vodacom could make as much as $23 million a day from people using the service. However, Vodacom’s total revenue rose by about
R3.6 billion in the 2003 financial year.
“Vodacom considers the matter as finally settled and closed,” said Kennedy.
Makate said he has been fighting Vodacom for 18 years and that he felt that the telecommunications giant was trying to wear him down.
“What I can say is that this process has made me stronger,” Makate said. “If I was paid what I was owed I would be sitting in the Bahamas or the Isle of Wight by now.”