Landmark court case to end the big garneshee rip-off

Four people appeared in a Durban court for fraud.
COURT GAVEL Four people appeared in a Durban court for fraud.

I read an interesting article in City Press yesterday and I thought it may well benefit Sowetan readers immensely.

The article was about a pending court application that could potentially wipe out a million garnishee orders. You may be a beneficiary should the application succeed.

The truth is that we are human and do not always control the circumstances around us, and so we may find ourselves submerged in debt.

Sometimes people neglect to make arrangements or, worse, ignore to make arrangements with debtors to avoid garnishee orders.

But does one deserves to be subjected to unfair legal practices when a garnishee order is issued?

Some may even ask, what are garnishee orders?

Usually when such a judgment is granted, a person may not even be aware that their debt is a matter in the courts.

There is nothing worse than debt, however, it is far worse when a garnishee order has been granted by the court.

This is terrible mainly because such debt will increase substantially, considering the legal costs involved and other costs such as collection commission.

Therefore, the original debt will most likely double or even more. Its an "excessive increase" and the newspaper report says that it was precisely because of this that a court challenge was brought before the Cape Town high court by Summit Financial Partners and the Stellenbosch University Law Clinic.

The challenge was brought because a person who had borrowed R1,500 ended up owing a total of R11,689, a whopping "six times the original debt" and this amount would be "collected via an emolument attachment order".

The total amount has been challenged to the extent that it is unlawful.

Indeed, according to the National Credit Act, attorney fees and other associated costs may not exceed the principal debt.

Let's say you owe R3,000, the Act allows for a maximum interest of R3,000 only.

However, the current interpretation of the act and the National Credit Regulator provisions disadvantage the consumer immensely regarding new recoverable debts and debt post-judgment, which can justify the exorbitant interests which drown consumers in debt.

Imagine paying R11,689 due to legal fees and other related costs, when your principal debt was only R1,500? It seems unfair, and it probably is.

If you have a garnishee order against your name, take a look at the principal debt and calculate how much you have paid already and what is still owed.

I am aware that it is not always possible to challenged big lawyers, because it costs serious money, but there are law clinics, such Wits Law Clinic, University of Pretoria Law Clinic and Potchefstroom Law Clinic that can assist free of charge.

Kindly also note that law clinics are in all provinces. For instance, the Legal Resource Centre is an excellent legal rights organisation dedicated to assisting people with their legal issues pro bono.

The Women's Legal Centre is dedicated to fighting for fundamental legal rights, but assists women only.

Also, lawyers often do pro bono work, so if you know an attorney, simply ask for his legal advice and he or she may well assist you, free of charge.

Always remember that the right to access to the courts and justice is everyone's constitutional right.

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