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‘I lost R33 000 to dodgy debit orders’ – businessman

In one month Koos Smit’s account was debited 13 times, by the same company.

JOHANNESBURG – Port Nolloth businessman Koos Smit says he has lost more than R30 000 to dodgy debit orders. The debit orders were paid to Platinum Credit Card Corporation (PC3).

When it comes to disputed debit orders, PC3’s track record is worse than most. Over the past few years it has been the subject of several unflattering news articles. Last year Moneyweb reported how PC3’s debit orders had wiped out the savings of 14-year-old Nicole Moss. The company later conceded that the debit orders were made in error. PC3 has also featured in the columns of consumer journalist Wendy Knowler, who describes it here as having an “appalling history of putting through unauthorised debits”.

Despite its poor track record, PC3 remains a client of debit-order company Stratcol. This grants it access to the banking system through Stratcol’s sponsor bank Absa.

Smit has supplied Moneyweb with bank statements showing the impact that PC3 had on his Nedbank account. In recent years the account was largely dormant which meant that the debit orders went unnoticed for some time.

Moneyweb’s analysis of these bank statements shows that in a two-year period – between February 2011 and May 2013 – PC3-related debits on Smit’s account amount to more than R33 000. Associated bank charges were more than R2 000.

In one particularly bad month, December 2012, Smit’s account was debited 13 times at a total cost of R2654.45. An extract follows:

Koos Smit bank statement December 2012
Date Description Amount  Bank charges 
07-Dec-12 PC3A 39214862PC3A 121207 R 199.95 R 17.00
14-Dec-12 PC3A 39718011PC3A 121214 R 299.95 R 17.00
PC3A 40157827PC3A 121214 R 99.00 R 17.00
PC3A 39277357PC3A 121214 R 249.85 R 17.00
PC3A 39277356PC3A 121215 R 249.90 R 17.00
PC3A 39277356PC3A 121215 R 299.95 R 17.00
PC3A 39312956PC3A 121215 R 299.95 R 17.00
PC3A 39277355PC3A 12115 R 99.00 R 17.00
Empowermen40623886SUBSCP121215 R 59.00 R 17.00
21-Dec-12 PC3B 39657202PC3B 121221 R 299.95 R 17.00
PC3B 40269145PC3B 121221 R 99.00 R 17.00
31-Dec-12 PC3C 40002611PC3C121231 R 299.95 R 17.00
PC3C 40457318PC3C121231 R 99.00 R 17.00
Total R 2 654.45 R 221.00

When Moneyweb asked PC3 to comment on Smit’s case in October last year, a response was received from general manager Johrika Burger. A copy of the response can be downloaded here. Burger says that Smit’s wife, Catharina, registered for three PC3 products: Platinum Reload: Cellular, Platinum Response and Platinum Easy Talk 100: Vodacom.

Burger says that the products were purchased in 2004, before PC3 was legally obliged to record all mandates. That legislation was enacted in 2006.

But Catharina Smit denies purchasing these products. Thus, the dispute over mandate boils down to Smit’s word against PC3’s.

The Smits also deny receiving any value for the debit orders. “Obviously if Mrs Smit signed up for these products she should have received airtime/products/something?” says Koos Smit’s daughter-in-law Annari Smit. “She never received anything. So how does it work that you pay for something you don’t get?”

PC3’s products are typically billed on a monthly basis. On PC3’s version one would therefore expect Smit’s account to have three PC3-related debits each month, not six per month, on average, as it did in 2012. In December 2012 there were 13 PC3-related debits, ranging from R59 to R299.95.

PC3 appeared to concede last year that it had overcharged Smit. In July 2013 it tried to pay a “settlement amount” of R12 766.85 to Smit’s account. However the payment was unsuccessful. This was because Smit had closed his account in order to stop the near-constant outflow of PC3-related debit orders.

Annari Smit then asked PC3 to pay the refund into a bank account belonging to Koos Smit’s wife, Catharina Smit. This request aroused PC3’s suspicions. It has since dug in its heels, and has suggested that Smit is guilty of criminal activity.

On October 28 last year, Moneyweb sent PC3 legal representative Pieter Venter a spreadsheet summarising debits made by PC3 against Smit’s bank account. PC3 was invited to correct possible errors in the spreadsheet. A copy of the spreadsheet can be downloaded here.

Venter responded that his clients are not prepared to discuss the personal cases of their clients in the press. “In addition my clients are busy investigating new information regarding the conduct of Mr Smit and the involvement of his wife with a view to possible criminal charges.”

Prior to publication a draft copy of this article was sent to PC3 with the invitation to correct possible factual errors and offer comment. PC3 denied that its debit orders are dodgy and said that Moneyweb uses information “which can be considered as dubious itself”. PC3 provided some further details on what it considers to be “discrepancies” regarding Smit’s proposed refund. PC3 says it will consider the refund once the relationship between Catharina Smit, who it claims authorised the debit orders, and Koos Smit, whose account was actually debited, has been “clarified”.

Discrepancies identified by PC3 are repeated below:

1. Mrs Catharina Smit signed KORI Engineering CC, registration number 2002/031448/23 up as a client of PC3 during 2004.

2. A refund was authorised after cancellation of the services. The refund could not be paid into the original account, as it was closed (as mentioned in the article by Mr Cobbett).

3. On 15 July 2013 Ms Annari Smit telephonically advised the PC3 staff “this is Mr Smit’s bank account, and Mrs Smit does not have signing rights to the account”.

4. Although (Ms A Smit on behalf of) Mr Koos Smit requested the refund:

· PC3 established that Ms C Smit was the majority member of KORI Engineering, with a membership interest of 40% – see the print-out from the CIPC website.

· Mr Smit is not a member of KORI Engineering.

· Payment was not to be made into the account of Mr Smit – See the instructing e-mail from Ms A Smit.

5. PC3 cancelled the refund as a result of these discrepancies.

Are you a victim of unauthorised debit orders? Send your complaints to Julius@moneyweb.co.za

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