Vodacom accused of stealing airtime idea

Vodacom is seeking the dismissal of a court bid that claims the company stole the idea for its "Airtime Advance" product. By Gareth van Zyl.


Vodacom is seeking the dismissal of a court bid that claims the company stole the idea for its “Airtime Advance” product.

Airtime Advance 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 has initiated a case at the high court in Johannesburg. The court will hear the matter on 18 April.

“Vodacom can confirm that Ndabenhle Business Enterprises CC has indeed initiated a high court action against Vodacom claiming that a product we launched, ‘Airtime Advance’, is its idea,” the company said in an e-mailed 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 said.

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 5c of every R1 that Vodacom has made from the service.

The court case comes after Vodacom became embroiled in legal action over its “Please Call Me” service in recent years.

Former Vodacom employee 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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  • Greg Mahlknecht

    The other day someone bought a pie for me but couldn’t find my wallet. I said I’d pay him back next time. If I’d known I was encroaching on someone’s intellectual property I’d have made alternative payment plans.

  • Ryan

    Sorry guys, can’t be “stolen” if the idea is already in public domain and an existing model, which it was back then.

    Lesson is, don’t present something to large corporates where you don’t have complexity or patent protection that will stop them from doing it themselves.

  • kuli

    fortunately, in this country there is equal recourse for everyone even though it is pricey.

  • Siyabonga Ngcobo


  • Siyabonga Ngcobo

    I tell ya I have many big ideas, and which I believe are viable, problem is the one you just mentioned, this country is very rich in innovative people because of the circumstances we are in. people tend to reach their niche, but only find that money is a problem

  • Siyabonga Ngcobo

    Someone please tell me they know Mr Makate, I really need him, my innovation is already tapped

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