Econet announced today that the Supreme Court has ruled in their favour in the matter against Namibian technology company Trustco, in the Supreme Court. The two companies have been fighting in court since mid 2011 following disagreements over the running of the EcoLife service. The victory is more one of principle and closure as it has no bearing on the EcoLife service itself. Econet’s agreement with Trustco legally came to end in February last year.
A summary of the EcoLife life story:
- In October 2010, Econet and First Mutual Life announce the new life insurance product. Called EcoLife, it’s a clever way to get subscribers to load up their credit in large chunks at a time and more regularly. Subscribers are required to load up their credit with a minimum of US $3 to qualify for “free” life insurance of up to $12,000.
- Just 7 months after launch, the service has 1.6 million subscribers, about 30% of all Econet subscribers then, which is quite impressive. Subscribers complain of spammy EcoLife SMS messages ‘forcing’ them to register , but spammy or not, the service is growing by leaps and bounds, and no one can predict what happens next.
- Just two weeks later, Econet announces that the agreement with TrustCo has been terminated and that they will be migrating users to an alternative life insurance platform. It emerges later that Trustco threatened to terminate the agreement hoping to use its tech ownership leverage to have its way. Econet called Trustco’s bluff. Trustco Backtracked, but it was too late.
- Trustco successfully seeks the help of the Zimbabwean courts to have EcoLife resumed. Econet appeals to the Supreme Court, and while they do, EcoLife has to be resumed. It’s business as usual for Trustco, except it’s not.
- With EcoLife resumed, the drama ends. Eventually Econet closes the stressful chapter with an announcement of the expiration of EcoLife agreement with Trust and the killing of EcoLife.
- A few more kicks by Trustco a few months later, then nothing. Until today’s closure.
When the fight started back in June 2011, Econet indicated they had already started work on “an alternative system that will automatically calculate your free life cover entitlements and provide you updates.” This was never mentioned again but we expect they didn’t shelve those plans completely. They probably just needed the Trustco matter to close. We wouldn’t be surprised therefore if a product close to EcoLife in nature is introduced in the coming months. That product would likely emerge from the Econet Service corner and have an EcoCash payments side.