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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

‘It’s patently false’: Vodacom says canning free Facebook has nothing to do with ‘Please Call Me’

The mobile service provider discontinued its Facebook Flex service on Tuesday.

Vodacom says its decision to cancel the long-running Facebook Flex service has nothing to do with the ongoing ‘Please Call Me’ case.

The network service operator discontinued its ‘basic mode’ service on Tuesday, which allowed customers to use Facebook without mobile data – seven years after it was introduced.

“We can confirm that Vodacom’s free basic version of Facebook, Facebook Flex (Basic Mode), that ran from 2017 (over seven years) will conclude on the 9th of April 2024,” Vodacom told The Citizen.

ALSO READ: ‘Please Call Me’ inventor awaiting calculations after SCA sets aside Vodacom’s R47m offer

Prepping for ‘Please Call Me’ payout?

Seemingly displeased, many users took to social media to express their concerns with some suggesting the decision was part of a cost-cutting move to prepare for the ‘Please Call Me‘ payout.

Vodacom has been embroiled in a long-drawn legal battle with ‘Please Call Me’ inventor Nkosana Makate, after he took the telecomms giant to court for a share in the proceeds made from his IP.

Contrary to popular perception, Vodacom told The Citizen that the move to discontinue ‘free mode’ was in no way connected to the pending multibillion rand court case.

“It is patently false to say that the decision is in any way linked to the Please Call Me matter – there is no connection between the two,” said a Vodacom spokesperson.

Estimates around Makate’s possible payout drew public attention after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) recently ordered Vodacom to pay the inventor 5% of the total revenue generated from the service between 2001 and 2021.

This amounts to between R29 billion and R63 billion. If the SCA’s order is carried, the multi-billion rand transaction would instantly place Makate among the country’s richest men.

ALSO READ: ‘Please Call Me’: Does your boss own your Intellectual Property?

Cheque book closed for now

In the meantime, Vodacom’s cheque book remains closed as the mobile giant confirmed it has lodged an application for leave to appeal SCA’s judgment in the Constitutional Court.

“Having considered the SCA judgment and order, it is Vodacom’s view that there are key aspects of this matter which do not accord with the spirit of the law and that the judgment and order are fundamentally flawed,” Vodacom said in a statement.

READ MORE: Exposing legal loopholes: Vodacom challenges SCA’s ‘Please Call Me’ verdict

No updates, yet

Despite plans to appeal, Vodacom also said it was open to ‘constructive dialogue’ and ‘good faith’ negotiations to agree on a ‘fair and reasonable’ compensation.

When The Citizen asked for an update last month, Vodacom declined to comment “due to the confidential nature” of the negotiations.

In a subsequent follow-up on Friday, a Vodacom spokesperson said: “There is nothing new to update on at this stage.”

ALSO READ: ‘This issue will be resolved by the end of this year’- Malema on Vodacom ‘Please Call Me’ ruling

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