I was going to pay my TV licence, and then the “attorneys” called

I was going to pay my TV licence this year. Honestly, I was.

Things are looking up in South Africa and I felt it was time to show my support with this gesture.

Financially, it is a drop in the ocean compared to the taxes, levies, and rates I pay every month, but paying it would be symbolic of my new-found hope in President Cyril Ramaphosa, new SABC COO Chris Maroleng, and the country in general, I told myself.

I have received a plethora of SMSs in the past two weeks telling me to pay my TV licence and that penalties were coming.

The licence fee is R265, but the most recent SMS I received stated I owed R344.50.

Still, this was fine with me – I had not paid on time and I could stomach the penalty.

Then, the attorneys called.

Pay up

My phone rang with an “Unknown Number”, which turned out to be a call centre agent who claimed to be from a firm of attorneys.

The reason for the call: I had not paid my TV licence. A summary of the call is below:

  • Staff Writer: Hello.
  • Call centre agent: Hello, may I speak to [Staff Writer’s name]?
  • Staff Writer: Speaking.
  • Call centre agent: Hello [Name], how are you?
  • Staff Writer: I am fine, thanks.
  • Call centre agent: I am fine, thank you. You are speaking to [Agent’s name] from [Attorney firm’s name].
  • Call centre agent: Please can you confirm your date of birth so I can verify I am speaking to the right person.
  • Staff Writer: No.
  • Call centre agent: Why not?
  • Staff Writer: I don’t know who you are.
  • Call centre agent: I am [Agent’s name] from [Attorney firm]. I am calling about your TV licence.
  • Staff Writer: I don’t have a TV.
  • Call centre agent: Where is your TV?
  • Staff Writer: That is none of your business. I do not have it.
  • Call centre agent: Excuse me?
  • Staff Writer: That is none of your business.
  • Call centre agent: Your TV licence has been handed over to us.
  • Staff Writer: My TV licence has been handed over to you?
  • Call centre agent: Yes.
  • Staff Writer: So you have my TV licence now?
  • Call centre agent: Yes.
  • Staff Writer: What are you going to do with it?

The call centre agent then hung up, and my desire to pay my TV licence disappeared with the engaged tone playing.

Non-payment

If you are in a similar situation, the question now is: What happens if I do not pay?

OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage told MyBroadband that the SABC cannot blacklist anyone for outstanding TV licences, as the SABC is not a credit provider and TV licences are not part of a credit agreement.

“If someone is blacklisted, they should complain to the National Credit Regulator as soon as possible. An adverse listing should be preceded by a notice setting out the intention,” said Duvenage.

He said that any letters of demand or SMSs are not hollow threats per se, however.

“Generally speaking, it is an indication or precursor to litigation, and a person should seriously consider whether they want to defend the claim.”

“If not, then the person should consider settling the debt. However, what people should be aware of is that a debt collector must be registered.”

“In the event that a person is phoned, they are well within their rights to get the person’s name and to find out from the Counsel for Debt Collector’s whether the person or company is registered.”

Duvenage said they do not know of anyone being summonsed for non-payment of their TV licence.

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I was going to pay my TV licence, and then the “attorneys” called