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MONEY CLINIC | Can creditors just deduct money from my bank account?

It is advisable to regularly check your bank statements for transactions that you do not recognize.

A Fin24 reader who returned home after five years abroad found that he had received a few judgments for unpaid debts. He wants to know if creditors are allowed to deduct money from his account.

He writes:

I am 56 years old. I have debts that accumulated before 2016. I left South Africa in 2017 and came back about a year ago. I then checked my credit score and discovered that I had received a few judgments while I was overseas. I currently have no job or source of income.

I then received an email from one of my creditors with a court order that they would deduct money from my account. Can they do this? In practical terms: if someone deposits R500 in my account, for example, could they take it?

Renée Marais, registered and independent NCR Debt Advisor, respond :

Credit grantors can NOT deduct money from any of your accounts. It was declared in a judgment between the National Credit Regulator and Standard Bank issued in June 2019 that common law “netting”, as it is called, is illegal.

Even if the contract or credit agreement included such authorization, it is still not legal. No one may withdraw funds from your bank accounts unless you have signed or consented in writing to a debit order for a specific withdrawal from a duly identified particular account.

Here is a copy of the judgment: National Credit Regulator v Standard Bank

Summary of judgment

National Credit Act – section 90(2)(n) and section 124 – interpretation of – the effect of these provisions on common law set-off for agreements of credit under the Act – The declarant acknowledged that in light of sections 90(2)(n) ) and 124 of the National Credit Act 34 of 2005, the common law right of set-off does not apply to credit agreements subject to the National Credit Act .

What can you do with illegal debit orders?

It is advisable to regularly check your bank statements for transactions that you do not recognize. Immediately query transactions for which you have not given authorization or agreed with your bank and report details to the Payments Association of South Africa at doa@pasa.org.za if there is such strange activity on your account.

Nothing prevents you from trying to reach a repayment agreement with one of the lawyers representing the credit grantors or the credit grantors themselves.

Unfortunately, I am not a lawyer and my opinion is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. It is advisable to contact a lawyer for legal assistance or legal aid, or a legal clinic at one of the local universities, which sometimes helps consumers who have difficulty paying for expensive legal assistance.

Here is the website of legal aid and contact details for Legal Aid:

1. Telephone 1: 011 877 2000 (national office reception)

2. Telephone 2: 0800 110 110 (free legal aid line)

3. Phone 3: 0800 153 728 (Legal Aid Ethics Helpline)

4. Phone 4: 079 835 7179 (number please call me)

5. Email: communications2@legal-aid.co.za.

6. Facebook: @LegalAidSA1.

Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.