Net1 accused of duping social grant beneficiaries

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Net1, whose subsidiary Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) will no longer be paying social grants from September, has been accused of duping beneficiaries into opening an account with another of its subsidiaries, EasyPay Everywhere.

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) drew MPs’ attention to this during a report to parliament’s portfolio committee on social development on August 15.

So far there are about 2.5 million grant beneficiaries with EasyPay accounts.

Net1 last week told GroundUp that it was not aware of these complaints.

But Sassa spokesperson Kgomoco Diseko said, "Sassa has been notified about some CPS employees misleading beneficiaries that the green Easy Pay card is actually the new Sassa card. Unsuspecting beneficiaries only find out the next month when money is deducted from their accounts without their consent."

He said this might be a way for CPS to "cling" to the Sassa payment system after September 30 when its contract comes to an end.

Diseko said Sassa had reported malpractices by Net1 to the Constitutional Court, which is overseeing the changes in the payment system, and to the authorities.

“The new gold Sassa card will bring an end to malpractices of some financial service providers. It does not allow for any deductions and it will serve as a remedy to acts of criminality by unscrupulous lenders,” he said.

The Black Sash said it had also received complaints that Net1 officials had continued to operate at the site of cash paypoints which had been closed by Sassa.

Familiar footprint

“They know that it is a familiar footprint for beneficiaries. They use that familiarity, or the fact that they were a Sassa service provider, or are still seen by many people as a service provider, to trick people,” said Black Sash national director Lynette Maart.

Sassa communications manager Mdumiseni Hadebe said beneficiaries could open an account with any bank of their choice, including EasyPay which was underwritten by Grindrod Bank and was considered a bank.

However he too urged beneficiaries to swap to the new Sassa gold card as it does not allow for deductions to be effected.

“The only deduction allowed is a funeral policy which must not exceed more than 10% of the grant amount,” said Hadebe.

'No need to go to the bank'

Net1 told GroundUp: “The Easy Pay Everywhere is a fully fledged bank account underwritten by Grindrod Bank. The contract between Sassa and Cash Payment Services (CPS) will terminate at the end of September pay cycle. The EasyPay Everywhere distribution network will continue to provide its clients with both a mobile and fixed ATM infrastructure channel as it has. This will include payments to its client’s base at pay points abandoned by Sassa.”

A 69-year-old pensioner from Imbali township in Pietermaritzburg told GroundUp that she had been offered an EasyPay card outside Sassa’s Vulindlela offices where she receives her pension. She said she had come to switch to a new Sassa card.

“The EasyPay staff were outside the offices,” she said.

“I receive my grant from the bank. At the time I had been given a form at Sassa to take to my bank. On my way out a lady from EasyPay asked what I had come for. I told her, I had come for a card swap. She asked for the form; she filled in the form and gave me a new green card. She said I should return the form to Sassa. The employee said there is no need to go to the bank,” said the pensioner.

She said she was confused.

“On the radio they are telling us to change to new Sassa cards. At the pay sites they still give us these green cards.”

An EasyPay employee told GroundUp they did offer beneficiaries new cards at ATMs and shops.

“During payment dates we are always there. We are visible at Spar, Jwayelani and other shops,” said the employee.

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