The Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) has levied over R3 million in fines on companies which put debit orders on people’s bank accounts without their authorisation.
Speaking to media at the association’s offices in Johannesburg, PASA CEO Walter Volker said the penalty is currently R1,000 per debit order without a proper mandate.
Volker explained that they regularly conduct spot-checks on debit orders by requesting samples of debit order mandates.
Samples are provided a hundred at a time, and PASA checks each of them for the presence of four required criteria.
“If they are deficient on any count, it’s an immediate R1,000 penalty,” said Volker.
“We found some users [of the National Payment System] where all hundred samples were deficient, then we flag them for review.”
This may result in the company’s access to the debit order system being cut off entirely. However, Volker said the process is tedious and expensive.
In addition to checking for companies which have not obtained debit order authorisations, PASA also follows up on complaints of rogue users which bill random bank accounts.
Volker said that as a result, they cut off hundreds of rogue users from the National Payment System during the past year.
Unfortunately, the penalties PASA levies are not much of a deterrent to these users, as they derive far more benefit than the fines disadvantage them, said Volker.
Shutting down the access of rogue companies also doesn’t hinder them much, as they simply move everything over to a new company and do it again.
Volker said that companies are often registered in the names of spouses or extended family, and some of these rogue operators register several at a time – so they can easily migrate their enterprise in the event that PASA shuts them down.
For this reason, PASA has launched a project to step up the industry’s enforcement efforts and crack down on debit order fraud in South Africa.
PASA also plans to publish a list of rogue users.
Businesses and individuals will then be able to consult the PASA database to ensure they steer clear of a known rogue debit order user.
PASA’s senior legal counsel Charl Ackerman said they are in the process of cleaning up their data for publication.
“We just have to get through some legal ticks, then we can make it available,” said Ackerman.