Vodacom ordered to pay former worker for 'Please Call Me'

Vodacom Group Ltd is the South African unit of Vodafone Group Plc. (Gallo)

Vodacom Group Ltd is the South African unit of Vodafone Group Plc. (Gallo)

Vodacom Group must pay a former employee for inventing a popular calling service after earlier claiming an ex-chief executive officer was responsible, according to a Constitutional Court ruling.

Kenneth Makate suggested the idea behind “Please Call Me” to Vodacom’s product-development team in 2000, and the concept was immediately taken up, the Johannesburg court judgement shows. About 140 000 customers made use of the service on its first day in operation, and it “continues to be a huge success”, according to court documents. Vodacom former chief executive Alan Knott-Craig was wrongly credited with the innovation, which allowed customers with no balance on their mobile phones to alert someone for free with the SMS message: “Please Call Me,” the ruling showed.

“We are aware of the Constitutional Court ruling and are currently studying its contents,” Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said by e-mail.

Vodacom have 30 days to start compensation negotiations with Makate, the court ruled. The shares reversed gains in Johannesburg, before recovering to trade 0.3% higher at R167 as of 11.26am local time. – Bloomberg

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