SMS campaign land SANRAL in hot water

By Danielle van Wyk

To motivate road-users to pay their outstanding debt, the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL)is making use of an SMS notification system. But the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) is claiming it is illegal.

Following the directive late last year, from deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, SANRAL is implementing a revised e-toll payment plan in favour of the motorists. The plan boasts a discount offer that started on 1 November 2015 and will expire in April of this year.

“In line with the new dispensation a discount of 60% was offered by the deputy president to those road users who settled their outstanding debt incurred prior to 1 September 2015 (historic debt).

The time left to ensure this discount is taken advantage of is fast running out. Those road users that have not responded will be subjected to ongoing collection activity, listing of their vehicles and civil action,” stated the Electronic Tolling Company (ETC), who run the system.

The ETC has further stated that SANRAL via the ETC has enlisted experts to collect outstanding e-toll debt.

“ITC has been mandated to assist in collecting these outstanding monies. The current batch of sms’s and communications sent to those road users that refuse to pay merely outline the consequences of their delinquency.”

OUTA response

Meanwhile OUTA have called on the public to challenge SANRAL’s ‘threatening’ campaign.

“It is our opinion that the public need not fear these threatening and intimidating SMS messages, as we believe there is no legal basis for enforcing the e-toll debt. OUTA’s “Rule of Law” campaign and the e-Toll Defense Umbrella (set up to defend its contributing members from any legal action linked to non-payment of e-Tolls), will challenge this unruly and intimidating behaviour by SANRAL and its collection agents,” stated OUTA.

Under the Debt Collectors Act of 1998 stating: ‘’In collecting or attempting to collect a claim a debt collector shall not abuse or intimidate a debtor in any manner, whether orally or in writing, in order to induce a person to pay a debt”, pointed out OUTA.

SANRAL defence

SANRAL, however, has stood by its decision and stated: “The current outstanding public debt resulting from non-payment of e-tolls is legally owing and needs to be collected. Experts have been engaged to employ the skill sets necessary to ensure that best efforts are made in collecting these outstanding monies.  

“A task force has been established and given that the holiday period is over, efforts around these collections are being amplified. To this end ITC Business Administrators (ITC) has been contracted to provide outsourced additional resource infrastructure to support the taskforce operation and debt recovery exercise. It is common global practice to outsource call centre operations and it’s generally standard practice of an outsourced arrangement to represent the client.”

In addition, the roads agency has defended their decision against allegations of intimidation by saying that it is in fact an offence to not pay tolls.

Further, “any reference to misrepresentation is obtuse and the collection of these outstanding monies has merely entered the next phase in accordance with the current laws of South Africa. Protests about the employment of experts to ensure maximum effort is expended in the collection of these delinquent debts carry no weight and as such road users need to assess the risk as the consequences of non-payment rests with them.”

Affordability of repayments

“Should consumers be liable for E-toll payments, they will be faced with additional costs on top of the recent repo rate increase (which will affect consumer debt repayments), rising food costs due to the drought and electricity increases.

“Not to mention general living expenses and schooling costs, E-toll expenses can send consumers over the edge financially. Now is also the time to galvanise the country amidst SONA 2016. Initiatives like this, be it right or wrong, are creating a divide between government and the people of SA,”stated Bhavesh Naran, marketing co-ordinator of the largest debt management company in South Africa, IDM.

The ETC further advised that consumers engage to “ensure that their 60% discount is claimed.”

The call centre can be contacted on 087 353 1490 or alternatively visit the website atwww.less60.co.za

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