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Forum Home > General Discussion > Vehicle debt collectors in blue light controversy.

Marie Kruger
Posts: 48

JOHANNESBURG - Vehicle financing companies have resorted to using sophisticated licence plate recognition software to track-down vehicles listed for repossession.

“In certain cases when a bank is unable to locate a client or a vehicle that remains under finance, external tracers are contracted via Service Level Agreements (SLA) to recover assets This is a joint initiative with Business Against Crime, the SA Police Service (SAPS), as well as the other major banks,” states WesBank.

The software enables debt collectors to randomly scan the licence plates of vehicles on the road or parked in public areas to repossess hard-to-track vehicles, on the spot.

However, two WesBank borrowers have reported to Moneyweb that the methods used by the roadside debt collectors include intimidation, misrepresentation of facts and the use of blue lights to pull unsuspecting defaulters off the road.

Client ‘A’

In a sworn affidavit one defaulter describes his harrowing interaction with one of WesBank’s outsourced roadside repo men.

The defaulter was driving on the N3 highway to Durban on a Sunday morning when “a white car with aerials and a light on the dashboard made me think it was a police car and told me to pull over.”

He adds that the three men in the vehicle, whom he presumed to be plain clothes police officers, then made him follow them and stop approximately 2km down a nearby off-ramp. One of the men allegedly had a pistol strapped to his ankle

“The next thing he pulled out these papers saying we are going to take your vehicle away,” the defaulter told Moneyweb.

After driving him to an agreed-upon location in Durban the men asked him to sign paperwork “which would cover themselves” before making off with the car.

Speaking to Moneyweb he admits to defaulting on his car repayments but believes that the methods used by the collections agents were “terrifying” and unethical.

WesBank maintains that in this case, five separate tracing agents had been contracted to locate the defaulter after which roadside repos were commissioned.

It argues that the client’s claims of being pulled off the highway on a Sunday by a vehicle with blue lights and an armed collections agent, “would be in direct contravention of the Debt Collectors Act and the WesBank Service Level Agreement, WesBank has a zero tolerance approach to any non-adherence.

“There are however conflicting versions of the facts in this case . As a result, the Service Level Agreement with the external tracing agency working the matter has been suspended pending further investigations and the matter is being referred to the Debt Collectors Council for an independent investigation,” it clarifies.

Client ‘B’

A second individual, a vehicle sales professional, was caught by roadside repos directly employed by WesBank.

He admits to having defaulted on his payments at one point, but states he was subsequently put under debt consolidation and has been repaying WesBank for a period spanning over three and a half years.

In an email reporting the incident to a debt counsellor he writes: “my friend’s girlfriend (who was driving the vehicle at the time) was on her way to work when a white Polo with blue flashing lights and this scanner camera on the roof pulled her over … saying that the vehicle had been marked for repo and that a flatbed tow-truck had been called to come and get the vehicle.”

Speaking to Moneyweb the complainant explained that the vehicle had been lent to a friend of his, as he himself had been provided with a company car.

The driver had not signed any paperwork at the time of repossession, had been caught on a Saturday and had been told by the debt collectors that the car had been reported stolen and that there was a court order out for its collection.

However, Francus Palm, an attorney representing the salesman states that in this case there was no court order out for the vehicle.

Statements provided to Moneyweb show a series of repayments made for the vehicle between December 2009 and April 2013.

“There was an agreement between the attorneys for the bank and me with regards to increasing the instalments under review which was done and affected,” states Palm.

“The funny part of this whole thing is that there was never disagreement between Wesbank and myself,” Palms says regarding the repayments.

WesBank, however, provides a vastly different account of events.

“The client had applied for debt, however, he did not pay according to the order that was granted and WesBank legally terminated the debt review process via its attorneys and issued a court order to repossess the vehicle.

“Numerous unsuccessful attempts to view the vehicle, were made by WesBank over a matter of years; however the client moved house and changed contact numbers without notifying WesBank. His financing agreement, which expired in January 2012, is currently in arrears by 56 instalments.”

WesBank maintains that the car was not pulled over on a highway and that it was found parked on the street.

It adds that as the agent was discussing the matter with the driver, the agent “ascertained that she was in fact a 4th party in possession of the car, WesBank’s client had fraudulently sold the car onto a 3rd party (her boyfriend) for R30 000, 3 years prior.”

This, the salesman vehemently denies.

“We can confirm that there are no blue lights in the car which was driven by the WesBank agent. We have written confirmation in this regard from our employee and to make sure we have also checked the inside of the “grill” of the car (as claimed by the lady) and there are no signs that possible lights may have been installed and later removed,” states WesBank.

WesBank states the image below to be of the car as it was located by the agent, proving that the driver was not pulled off the freeway.

This is the third of such incidents to come to Palm’s attention. The alleged defaulters “are pulled over and given the impression that they don’t have the choice … they are saying the car has been reported stolen impression … if that is the case then why are the police not doing the repossession?” he asks.

How the Roadside Repo Works

According to WesBank’s response:

“Automated Number Plate Recognition technology is used to scan the number plates of stationery vehicles in public places. All images are then tested against the SAPS and other databases to establish if the vehicle has been reported in one of the following categories:

• Vehicle theft;

• Fraudulently financed vehicles – ID theft;

• Fraudulent Instalment takeovers - Clients defrauded by third parties who promise to take over the instalments, but fraudulently sell the vehicle to another party (contravention of Sect 97 of National Credit Act);

• Customers who have absconded with the vehicles;

• Natis fraud: WesBank is removed as the title holder whilst the goods are still subjected to instalment sale and the vehicle is sold to an unsuspecting buyer.

“Only accounts with significant arrears, where banks are unable to locate the customer or the car, are entered into this system for recovery of the asset. The customers are regarded to have either absconded or have alienated the vehicle.

“In cases where a vehicle is linked to any criminal activity, SAPS is summonsed in order to facilitate the recovery of the vehicle. If the vehicle has been classified as an absconsion or alienation and the vehicle is subsequently located, the client is provided with the opportunity to voluntarily surrender the vehicle through the signing of a Voluntary Termination Notice.

"In certain cases when a bank is unable to locate a client or a vehicle that remains under finance, external tracers are contracted via Service Level Agreements (SLA) to recover assets. All external contractors are required to adhere to the rules and procedures of the Debt Collectors Act (DCA), its Code of Conduct as well as all other applicable legislation.”


May 28, 2013 at 3:30 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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