The Debt Collectors Amendment Bill, 2016, which threatens the professions of a number of attorneys and debt collectors may be passed as law in South Africa unless the public mounts a significant challenge against the Bill.
The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) has stepped up to the plate to voice its concerns and challenge the Bill, which seeks to make generalized claims regarding the actions and roles of debt collection attorneys and debt collectors.
The Bill was drafted because of the multitude of cases whereby debt collectors have abused their rights and used techniques that have verged on being unconstitutional, especially those cases regarding emolument attachment orders. However, the LSSA claim that the Bill has been drafted to counter the conduct of relatively few debt collectors and debt collection attorneys that are already being ‘weeded out’ with the amendments to the Magistrates’ Courts Act 32 of 1944 and existing regulation.
By making everyone subject to the Council of Debt Collectors will ultimately remove the independence of those in the legal profession. Furthermore, the passed Bill will prevent those who have made minor omissions from being registered as debt collectors, thus removing them from their profession and an income. Any agreements between debt collectors and their clients both before and after the Bill is passed will become invalid if the debt collector has not registered on the Council. Again this will result in a loss of business, and will result in litigated circumstances which could cripple the profession for a considerable amount of time.
There are many reasons why the Bill is facing adversity, and it is important that it faces ever more objection if those in the legal profession wish to remain independent.