Prepare to go into battle if you’re planning to cancel your TV licence

2014-05-13 00:00

CANCELLING a TV licence is not always a simple affair, even if you do follow the rules, as Berea resident Glen Arnold recently discovered to his dismay.

“My TV was broken and I decided I’m not replacing it. I knew that to cancel a TV licence you have to get an affidavit,” Arnold said.

So, armed with an affidavit from his local police station, Arnold went to the SABC’s Durban office to cancel it.

“They were very unhelpful at TV licence enquiries and the lady tried to insinuate that it’s so close to my renewal and ‘Isn’t it a bit of a coincidence?’ I got cross with her,” Arnold said.

“I handed the affidavit in and the lady at the counter faxed it to Johannesburg and gave it back with a fax receipt slip.”

That was last August, a full month before his licence was due to expire, giving, or so Arnold thought, the SABC enough time to process the cancellation.

“I called the Johannesburg office that afternoon and they said that they had received the fax.”

Arnold said he assumed that the licence had been cancelled, as he heard nothing further from the SABC.

But a few weeks ago Arnold was shocked to get a call from a NuDebt, a debt collecting agent, advising he had been “handed over” because he owed R300 for an unpaid TV licence.

“I performed and told her that I had handed in an affidavit and she said I must go back to the SABC,” Arnold said.

“I went back to the SABC and the woman was unhelpful again and asked for the fax receipt,” Arnold alleged. “Unfortunately I lost the fax receipt but still had the affidavit.”

Arnold alleged that the staff member had refused to assist him and told him to call the debt collectors.

Arnold said he called NuDebt again and an agent gave him a fax number to send the affidavit to, which he then faxed from a local print shop.

“When I called them back they said they did not get the fax,” Arnold said.

Arnold, who survives on a disability pension, alleged that he had called the SABC and NuDebt repeatedly trying to resolve the problem, but after spending R80 on phone calls he gave up and approached Witness Crusaders for help.

“For all I know it’s going to go up to R1 000,” Arnold said.

“It makes me so stressed, especially when I speak to them and they don’t want to help. I would like a formal apology from the SABC,” Arnold said.

When I contacted NuDebt managing director Brian Blignaut, he said his agents had assisted Arnold in a “professional manner” even when he had allegedly lost his temper. He said the agent had referred him to the SABC because he “refused to listen and afford NuDebt the opportunity to assist him”.

“Mr Arnold was informed by our agent that we did not receive his fax and we requested that he either resend the fax or supply us with the fax number he sent it from,” Blignaut said.

“To date we have not received the fax number.”

SABC audience services division spokesperson Monya Boucher apologised to Arnold for the inconvenience, saying the complaint had been investigated and the licence had now been cancelled and debt collection action terminated.

“Mr Arnold’s affidavit, dated August 23, 2013, was received at SABC’s regional office in Durban and captured on the TV Licences’ electronic correspondence system on 26 August 2013. TV Licences regrettably did not attend promptly to Mr Arnold’s cancellation request,” Boucher said.

She said two renewal reminders were posted to him before the account was handed over.

Boucher said the SABC had investigated his complaint and found that two of its agents had separately confirmed receipt of the affidavit and promised him that they would process the cancellation.

Payment of a television licence is a legal obligation in terms of the Broadcasting Act and the TV Licence Regulations, which stipulate that no person may be in possession of or use a TV without a valid “paid-up” licence, Boucher added.

“A television licence does not ‘lapse’ or ‘get cancelled automatically’ should payment of licence fees be discontinued. A person no longer requires a licence on having sold or otherwise disposed of his or her TV.”

Boucher said the SABC had to be notified within 30 days of the expiry of a licence by way of an affidavit, explaining what had happened to the TV.

“Some defaulters believe television licence fees outstanding for three or more years constitute ‘old debt’ that has automatically lapsed owing to prescription. However, debt owed to the SABC TV Licences prescribes after 30 years.”

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