When not paying your TV licence can damage your credit record

Continuing to refuse to pay your TV licence could eventually damage your credit record, according to Stefanie Fick, executive director of the accountability division at the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).

MyBroadband received a complaint from a reader who had been informed by the SABC that he was handed over to the TV Licence debt collection agency for being two months behind on his TV licence payment.

This made him worry that he could be blacklisted by the SABC or have his credit record impacted negatively.

Fick, however, said that the SABC was not a credit provider, as credit required money to be borrowed and paid back over time. By contrast, TV licences were paid upfront – either on an annual or monthly basis.

This means the SABC is not able to list a consumer as defaulting on a credit commitment, which banks or retailers could do.

“Non-payment of your TV licence is not credit provided by the SABC, it is more like a tax,” Fick said. Therefore, the initial failure to pay your TV licence would have no bearing on your credit score.

However, matters could change if you remained defiant while you were in the possession of a TV.

How your credit record could be impacted

Fick said if the SABC obtained a court order or default judgment against you for outstanding payments, your credit record could take a hit. For this, it would have to institute formal legal proceedings, including issuing you with a court summons.

In addition, Fick said that the Broadcasting Act determined that any person who was found guilty of contravening or failing to comply with the TV licence requirement could be fined up to a maximum of R500 and/or to imprisonment for a period of up to six months.

According to credit agency Transunion, a judgment remains on your credit record for 5 years, until it is paid in full, or a rescission is granted by the courts.

Despite not being a credit provider, the SABC can charge a fee for every month for which the licence holder is behind on payments. This would be equal to 10% of the annual fee (R28.50) or up to 100% per annum (R285).

This is not the same as interest on credit, as the maximum amount would still be equal to the fee and not an additional cost. If you were one year behind on payments, you will only be liable for an annual fee, unless the SABC takes you to court and you are fined the additional R500.

People aren’t paying

According to the SABC, millions of South Africans are not paying their TV licences, which has resulted in a significant revenue shortfall for the broadcaster.

In February, SABC CFO Yolande van Biljon told Parliament that only 2.5 million of 9.5 million TV licence holders on their database paid their TV licence fees in 2020.

Fick said OUTA was of the view that the SABC’s outdated method of collection was to blame.

“When licenses and levies of this nature become difficult to collect and costly to administer over time, one needs to unpack why this is so, what can realistically be done about it, and is there not a more efficient way this can be done, whilst keeping the payee in mind,” Fick said.

“In our view – much like e-tolls and other looming challenges for the state – if one is unable to effectively administer and enforce a levy (fee or tax), it will collapse over time.”

“This happens because people test the system, they share their experiences and if there are no consequences, they will stop paying.”

“When too many people stop paying and the State has no way of addressing this, the process becomes a lost cause,” she added.

She maintained that the SABC could not continue insisting that paying one’s TV licence was “the right thing to do”, while there has been corruption and maladministration within the public broadcaster.

Fick also slammed the SABC’s proposal to introduce a new household tax to replace the TV Licence, calling it an impossible option.

“People won’t register for this tax. The only people that apply taxes to the home level are municipalities,” she said.

“Now you’re asking local Government to collect taxes for a national entity. It won’t work.”

In addition, many indigent households were exempt from other taxes – such as for property. If they were to be exempt from the new tax as well, it would create a big problem for the “user pays” principle applied to the TV Licence fee.

Fick said the SABC must become a more autonomous and self-sufficient entity, while still receiving some funds from the state to fulfil its national news and education mandate.

Read: How to cancel your TV licence in South Africa

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When not paying your TV licence can damage your credit record