Prescription of Debt in the Consumer-Credit Industry

Keywords: Prescription of debt, extinctive prescription, consumer credit, consumer protection, section 126B, the National Credit Act

Abstract

A person may acquire rights or be released from obligations through the passage of time. This is known as prescription. The objective of prescription is to achieve legal certainty and finality in the relationship between a debtor and a creditor, with the focus on protecting a debtor (consumer) against the unfairness of having to defend old claims. Old claims are therefore after the elapsing of specific time periods extinguished through prescription. A debtor must then specifically raise prescription as a defence against claims from creditors based on prescribed debts. The prescription of consumer debts is regulated by the National Credit Act 34 of 2005 (when the credit agreement falls under the NCA) and the Prescription Act 68 of 1969. The Prescription Act generally regulates all aspects of the prescription, which would also include consumer debts, while section 126B of the National Credit Act regulates and prohibits certain practices related to prescription, such as the selling of prescribed consumer debts or the continued collection or re-activation of prescribed consumer debts. In this article several practical aspects related to prescription and the National Credit Act are discussed, such as the impact of non-compliance with section 96 and section 129(1)(a) of the NCA on prescription. Section 126B is specifically analysed, and the question whether section 126B absolutely prohibits certain abusive practices related to the prescription of consumer debts is answered. Several shortcomings of the current legislation are also pointed out. In this article some aspects of the draft Prescription Bill proposed by the South African Law Reform Commission are also considered. In particular, we focus on the impact the Bill may have on the consumer-credit industry.

 

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Published
2019-12-12
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