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Hints To Customers

Our office regularly receives complaints regarding credit cards. We would like to bring a few aspects to your attention regarding the use of these cards.

The constantly repeated warning that you should keep a wary eye on your credit card cannot be overemphasised. It is imperative that you constantly check to confirm that your card is your possession. A basic term of your credit card contract that you have with the bank is that you will be held liable for all purchases on the card (fraudulent or not) until you have reported your card as stolen. We receive many complaints from bank clients who are being held liable for purchases made on their card after it was stolen from them and before they had reported it to the bank.

In the event that your credit card is stolen it can be used by the thief to make fraudulent purchases. Your signature on the card is not a total protection against fraudulent use of the card. An often-repeated assertion by the victim of a stolen credit card is that the signature on the voucher is vastly different to their signature on their card that was stolen. Due to the various methods employed by the thieves and in terms of the agreements between the banks and the merchants, the comparison of the signatures only becomes a relevant factor once the stolen credit card has been recovered. Then only can a comparison be done between the signature on the card and that on the voucher. A comparison between the card holder’s usual signature and that on the voucher is not relevant at all. Stolen cards are very rarely recovered.

A thief who has stolen your card can use it to make purchases in excess of your credit limit, for which you may possibly be held liable in terms of the conditions of the contract between you and the bank. Even if you have already reached the credit limit of your card when it has been stolen, the thief will be able to exceed that limit.

It is vitally important that you check your credit card statements carefully as soon as it arrives. You only have 60 days within which you must report any fraudulent or incorrect purchases on your card. Once this 60 day period expires you will probably have some difficulty in contesting any incorrect debits.

When you dispute a transaction on your credit card statement (within the time limit) the bank will request the merchant, from whom the purchase was made, to produce the voucher of the transaction, which was printed when the transaction was done. If the merchant is unable to produce the voucher the bank will charge-back the transaction to the merchant. This means that the merchant’s account is debited and your account is credited with the transaction amount. In other words the merchant then has to pay for the transaction. If the merchant produces the voucher, the signature on the voucher is compared to that on your card. If the two are reasonably similar the transaction is confirmed. It may happen that the bank, immediately on receiving your dispute, credits your account with the value of the transaction. This is only done on a provisional basis. Once the merchant has produced the voucher and the transaction is confirmed, the amount will again be debited from your account.

In the event of a contractual dispute between you and the merchant, paying by credit card can generally be regarded as a cash transaction. For example, you buy a defective stove on your credit card and only find out when you get home. The merchant refuses to repay you. You cannot dispute the transaction with your bank citing the fact that the stove does not work. The bank cannot involve itself in a dispute of this nature and will not take any charge-back steps. The reasoning is clear, the bank is not a court, and it cannot make a finding as to who is telling the truth in such a situation.

  • Make sure that you keep your cheque book safe and secure.
  • Mark cheques “not transferable” where possible, writing this boldly across the face of the cheque, preferable in red ink.
  • Begin writing the name of the payee and the amount to be paid close to the left hand margin to prevent alterations.
  • Use indelible ink when writing cheques.
  • Any alteration on a cheque will result in the bank not accepting it after 1 August 2001.
  • “Not transferable” crossings cannot be cancelled.
  • Always mark a cheque as “Not-negotiable” in the crossing at the top left corner.
  • Always cross out the words “or bearer/of toonder”
  • Be wary of posting cheques. They are easily intercepted and stolen in transit.
  • Never leave spaces between any letters or numbers written on the cheque.
  • Always write out the full names of the payee, including the description “Pty”, “Ltd” or “CC” where applicable.
  • Never sign a blank cheque.
  • When building a home, do not sign consent to progress payments before you are satisfied with the work done. Obtain expert advice if necessary, do not rely on the bank’s assessor.
  • If you are buying a renovated or older home, it would be wise to obtain the services of an expert to inspect the building. You cannot rely on the bank assessor to do this for you.
  • If you have paid up your bond, give the bank firm instructions as to whether you wish to continue with existing insurance or not.
  • Most people only check their insurance cover when it is too late.
  • Check with your bank what insurance cover you have in place on your bond account.
  • Verify that you know the difference between House Owner’s Cover – which is insurance against damage to the property and Homeowner’s Life Cover/Life Protection Assurance – which is insurance against death or disability etc. It can look very similar on the bond account statement.
  • In the case of a married couple or where the bond is registered in two parties’ names, ensure that both are insured.
  • The onus is on you to ensure that the payments are made every month to the insurance company.
  • Never allow anyone to stand near you or assist you at the ATM.
  • Never enter your PIN unless the ATM screen prompts you to do so.
  • Criminals involved in ATM scams will generally come across as well-dressed and friendly – they are trying to convince you to trust them.
  • Avoid an ATM that does not easily accept your card on the first attempt.
  • Only use ATMs in safe and well-lit areas.
  • Immediately report a card that has been retained by the ATM for any reason.
  • The ATM scam criminal uses sleight of hand techniques to obtain your card and may try to convince you that your card is in the ATM and abuse your trust to allow him or an accomplice to observe you entering your PIN.
  • Ensure that your daily ATM withdrawal limits are in accordance with your needs and appetite for risk.

What are the advantages of a debit order?

A debit order is a convenient and relatively inexpensive method of payment in terms of which a creditor routinely debits the bank account of a debtor with a specific or varying amount in terms of an underlying agreement entered into between the two parties. The debit orders system satisfies the creditor’s requirement that payments be made regularly and timeously, and obviates the need for the debtor to ensure that accounts are settled on that basis. Payment by debit order can be made in respect of telephone accounts, gymnasium fees, loan repayments, insurance premiums, installment sale premiums and similar transactions.

What are the dangers inherent in using a debit order?

The bank customer has to bear in mind that:

  • Varying amounts can be deducted by the creditor from his or her bank account if so arranged in the debit order authorisation, for example in respect of payments of a telephone account.
  • Debit order authorisations often are not limited to a specific period of time and could carry on indefinitely, for example in respect of gymnasium membership fees.
  • Although debit order authorisations are usually in writing, voice recordings are sometimes utilised which could lead to misunderstandings as to the terms thereof.

What happens if a customer has insufficient funds in his or her account to meet the debit order?
The customer’s bank will return the debit order marked “not provided for” to the creditor’s bank account. The creditor is allowed to re-submit the debit order the following month. The creditor cannot, however, increase the value of the debit order to recover arrears. Separate debit orders have to be submitted by the creditor for current and arrears payments. If a debit order remains unpaid on two occasions for lack of funds, the creditor must remove it from the customer’s account system unless the creditor receives a new debit order authorization from the customer to meet future payments.

How does a customer cancel a debit order?

Since the debit order relates to an agreement entered into between a creditor and a customer, the customer should inform the creditor of the cancellation thereof in writing to prevent the creditor from placing the debit on the account after cancellation. However, in order to ensure that the bank does not pay the debit order should the creditor inadvertently put it through the customer’s account after cancellation, the customer has to give his or her bank a written stop payment instruction. The customer’s bank is not entitled to give reasons to the creditor as to why the debit order was stopped. In the event that the customer subsequently decides to reinstate the debit order on the same terms and in the same format, a new debit order authorization has to be given by the customer to the creditor, and the customer has to cancel the stop payment instruction at his or her bank.

How does a customer amend a debit order?

The customer has to renegotiate the payment terms directly with the creditor and provide the creditor with a new debit order authorization. However, in order to ensure that the bank does not pay the previous debit order should the creditor inadvertently put it through the customer’s account after its amendment, the customer has to give his or her bank a written stop payment instruction which specifically relates to the previous, unamended debit order authorization.

What does a customer do if an unauthorized debit order goes through his or her account?

The customer must advise his or her bank in writing that:

  • he or she did not authorise the debit in question;
  • The debit is in contravention of his or her authority;
  • He or she has instructed the creditor to cancel his or her authority. If the customer lodges the aforesaid complaint in writing with both the bank and the creditor within 40 calendar days of the date on which the debit went through the account, the bank will reverse the debit upon receipt of the complaint to the creditor’s bank account – whether or not the creditor has funds available in the account. If the complaint is lodged after 40 days, however, the bank has to give the creditor’s bank 30 days registered written notice of its intention to reverse the transaction. If the creditor’s bank fails within this period to prove the validity of the transaction to the satisfaction of the customer’s bank, the latter bank will reverse the transaction.
  • Never sign blank progress payment forms. Check the form carefully before signing. To whom will payment be made?
  • Study the conditions of the bond carefully. The contract may insist that a certain percentage of the building work be completed with your own money before progress payments from the loan can be made.
  • Insist on the progress payments being made to yourself or to your own account. Never directly to the builder or contractor. You can then make payment to the contractor when you are satisfied with the work done.
  • The purpose of the bank’s assessor is purely to ensure that the progress payments are used for building work, he is not permitted to give you any advice or assurance as to the quality of the work done and you cannot rely on any advice he has given you in this regard.
  • Verify the account number with the payee in writing before making any transfer or deposit.
  • The bank’s system only uses the account number for the transfer. It does not cross verify with the payee’s name or any other information.
  • A deposit to the wrong account may have to be reclaimed from the account holder who received the money (using the courts of law).
  • A business must verify each account number with each payee before authorizing payments. Sometimes businesses are defrauded by their financial departments, which fill in the correct payee’s name but with their own account number. In these instances, the manager authorizing the payments only looks at the payee’s name and does not check that the account number belongs to that payee.
  • The sale of such a property is usually “voetstoots”. You have little recourse if you subsequently discover structural problems with the property.
  • Be aware that one may encounter difficulties in having occupants of the property evicted. You may find yourself having to pay a bond on a property of which you cannot take possession.

The tenant may be entitled to remove certain items from the property when he vacates. The contract usually absolves the bank from liability for any items removed or damaged.