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debtors can't be bullied

By unknown | Jun 04, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Are you sick and tired of Illegal debt collectors who knock at your door at any awkward time - even on Sunday mornings when you are about to go to church?

Are you sick and tired of Illegal debt collectors who knock at your door at any awkward time - even on Sunday mornings when you are about to go to church?

If you are a debtor, like Bongi Mkhwanazi, the Council of Debt Collectors will help you.

Ten years ago Mkhwanazi bought goods from Home Choice. She paid her debt until she lost her job and was unable to pay. The balance was R195 then.

She did not hear from Home Choice until April this year. A debt collector came to her house at about 9pm, she said.

"With interest, the R195 had ballooned to more than R3000 - plus the debt-collector's fees," she says.

Mkhawanazi checked with Home Choice to verify how much she owed, but they could not find her details in their system.

The debt collector has been harassing her since then, Mkhwanazi says.

"The guy is desperate. He even comes on Sunday mornings to demand payment."

He told her that he was mandated to collect money for Home Choice through the store's lawyers.

Advocate J Noeth, chairman of the Council for Debt Collectors, says it is not acceptable for a debt collector to visit a debtor on Sundays or at a debtor's workplace.

He says the debtor must be treated in a civil manner and cannot be harassed.

Noeth says if a creditor has not pursued a debtor for more than three years the law of prescription applies.

This means that if you have debt, but have not received a letter of demand or summons from a creditor for more than three years, you can refuse to pay.

But if you have signed a document without checking the prescription period, you cannot later refuse to repay, Noeth says.

The act regulating debt collection in South Africa has transformed debt collecting practices for the better.

The Debt Collectors Act came into operation four years ago and has resulted in more than 19000 debt collectors being registered with the council.

Noeth says collectors who do not abide by the council's code of conduct have been deregistered.

About 12000 active debt collectors are effectively controlled in terms of the act, code of conduct and regulations.

"In the past year alone almost 500 applications a month were received. Besides registering debt collectors, the council has also speeded up its ability to investigate complaints more effectively," Noeth says.

He says the council remains concerned that the public are still not fully aware of their rights and responsibilities when they are confronted by debt collectors.

"We want to ensure the public, and especially the most vulnerable, that they are protected," Noeth says. "We have started information campaigns to ensure that they are fully aware of the protection the act affords them.

"If confronted by a debt collector you should ask if the person is registered with the council. If no proof of registration is provided, the person must be reported to the council immediately."

Some tips:

lWhen a debt collector contacts you, make sure the person is registered. Contact the council for clarification if necessary.

lA debt collector is a person who collects debts for a creditor for reward.

lAll debt collectors must register with the Council for Debt Collectors before they can operate. Failure to register is a criminal offence.

lDebt collectors must produce proof of registration on request.

lDebt collectors can contact debtors by mail, phone or in person.

lThey deliver documents and might even have a signed acknowledgement of debt. An acknowledgement of debt is when a debtor admits that he or she knows about the debt and then makes arrangements to pay it off in monthly installments.

Once signed, the debtor must pay or the debt collector can obtain a court order without telling the debtor.

lYou have the right to get legal advice before signing anything.

lDebtors may not to be harassed, humiliated embarrassed or threatened.

lHaving acknowledged a debt and having started to pay, the debtor has the right to receive a statement if requested, free of charge, once every six months.

lIf a debtor has a complaint about fees charged, have your account checked by the clerk of the magistrate's court.

lIf a debtor is dissatisfied with the action or conduct of a debt collector or unsure of his or her rights, contact the council at 012-804-9808 or e-mail

Debtors can also send complaints in a sworn affidavit to PO Box 836, Silverton, Pretoria, 8000.


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