Vodacom accused of stealing ‘airtime advance’ idea

Johannesburg - Mobile network Vodacom [JSE:VOD] is seeking dismissal of a court bid that claims the company stole the idea for its ‘Airtime Advance’ product.

Vodacom’s Airtime Advance product allows subscribers - who run out of airtime - to get R5 or R10 in prepaid minutes on credit and only pay the next time they recharge.

Customers who use the service then pay an extra R1 fee on their next recharge.

Vodacom has confirmed that a business called Ndabenhle Business Enterprises CC (‘Ndabenhle’) has initiated a case at Johannesburg’s South Gauteng High Court for April 18 regarding the matter.

“Vodacom can confirm that Ndabenhle Business Enterprises CC ('Ndabenhle') has indeed initiated a High Court action against Vodacom claiming that a product we launched, ‘Airtime Advance’, is its idea,” the company told Fin24 in an emailed statement.

“Vodacom is defending this action and is seeking a dismissal of the case on the ground that the plaintiff's particulars of claim do not disclose a cause of action. The claim is not supported by facts and pertinent evidence,” the company told Fin24.

The Sowetan newspaper earlier this week reported that the court case has been launched by businessman John Khaba, through his company Ndabenhle Business Enterprises.

The court bid claims that Khaba approached Vodacom with the Airtime Advance idea a year before Vodacom launched the service in 2011.

Khaba is reportedly demanding five cents of every rand that Vodacom has made from the service.

The 'Airtime Advance' case against Vodacom comes after the company has also been embroiled in court action over its 'Please Call Me' service in recent years.

Former Vodacom employee Kenneth Nkosana Makate claims to have invented the ‘Please Call Me' service and the Constitutional Court late last year reserved judgment on the matter.

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