Over the last few years, I have received numerous threats about my “unpaid” TV Licence – including letters of demand, final notices, summons threats, and threats of being blacklisted.
The threats from the SABC, usually via some debt-collecting firm, started with notices via SMS, and then progressed to emails and physical letters written in red to enhance the fear factor.
They tried a friendlier tactic a while ago, where an email informed me I have a “Once-in a-lifetime settlement opportunity!!!” – offering me a big discount on outstanding TV Licence fees.
All of these were ignored for one simple reason: I do not need a TV Licence.
After I got married, we started using my wife’s TV Licence for the household and did what was needed to cancel my TV Licence. Needless to say, the cancellation was not successful.
I am not alone. Over the years, numerous South Africans have voiced their frustrations with the “pay your TV Licence” threats they have received – despite the fact they do not need one.
Below are a few examples from the Sunday Times and MyBroadband about unreasonable TV Licence fee demands:
- A mentally-disabled woman in Pretoria, who never owned a TV, being told to pay 25 years of licence fees that were “in arrears”.
- A 22-year-old first-time TV licence-holder who, immediately after getting a licence, was back-billed for arrears to the age of 18.
- A person who left for the UK, who advised the SABC of the disposal of their TV set, received a bill, plus arrears and collection fees, a few years later.
- A person who received threatening calls regarding their TV Licence, only to establish that the outstanding balance was for a different person.
The Sunday Times also previously listed documents which showed that several of the SABC’s debt collectors have:
- Claimed to place “trace locators” (indicating that individuals are wanted for unsettled debt) on people’s credit profiles.
- Threatened that judgments will be listed against a consumer’s name for 30 years (judgments are listed for five years).
- Warned that a listed judgment would make it “virtually impossible” to get credit.
Howard Dembovsky, the national chairman of Justice Project SA, slated these tactics.
“To threaten people with dire consequences to extract money is racketeering,” he said.
In short, I am sick and tired of the SABC’s threats regarding a TV Licence which I do not need.
Like many South Africans, I feel the SABC and its debt collecting firms should be taken to task for the unfounded and unsolicited TV Licence threats.
This is an opinion article.