Streaming issues? Report here
CapeTalk logo 2017 1500 x 1500 CapeTalk logo 2017 1500 x 1500
Best of CapeTalk
22:00 - 00:00
volume_up
volume_mute

Up Next: Early Breakfast with Africa Melane
See full line-up
Best of CapeTalk
22:00 - 00:00

FNB illegally takes consumer’s silence as an agreement

29 August 2019 8:46 PM

Have a credit card with FNB? You may want to check this out, warns consumer journalist Wendy Knowler.

It is illegal for a company to regard your non-response as consent, says consumer journalist Wendy Knowler.

In other words, nobody may offer to sell you anything and then take your lack of response as consent.

They may not ask you to agree (or disagree) to changing a key element of your contract with them, and then take your non-response as permission.

This practice is called “negative-option marketing”; countries around the world consider it a bad business practice.

A consumer’s silence cannot be taken as agreement. A company must source a definite response, not make self-serving assumptions based on a customer's lack of response.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

Negative-option marketing is illegal in South Africa – in 2011 the Consumer Protection Act outlawed it.

A supplier must not promote any goods or services; offer to enter into or modify an agreement for the supply of any goods or services; or induce a person to accept any goods or services or to enter into or modify such an agreement, on the basis that the goods or services are to be supplied, or the agreement or modification will automatically come into existence, unless the consumer declines such offer or inducement.

Consumer Protection Act

Nevertheless, says Knowler, companies continue to do this.

Case study

In March this year, Sally Shaw, who lives in a Northern Cape village, got an SMS from FNB to say they wanted to change the date of payment on her credit card account from the 23rd of the month to the14th.

If she didn’t want that to happen, she should SMS ‘NO’, the bank said.

It was part of the bank’s campaign to “align” credit card payments with their client’s salary dates in order to, as the bank put it, “improve collections and to help customers manage their finances in a smart way”.

Shaw is self-employed; she doesn’t earn a salary.

The bulk of her clients pay her between the 25th and the 2nd, so she was very happy with her payment date as it was - at the end of the month.

She says she SMSed “NO”, but then deleted the text, so she can’t prove it.

But, thanks to the unilateral date change, she missed two payments which ended up costing her about R5000 extra in interest and fees.

When she protested, via email, she was told by one of the bank’s “customer servicing” agents she had to provide proof if she wanted a reversal of the interest and fees she’d been charged as a result of the date change.

Her payment date has since been moved back to nearer the end of the month, but Shaw was not at all happy about what happened and what it cost her - “unconscionable” she called it - so she raised the issue with Knowler.

How can FNB get away with this legally? How many people have FNB done this to?

Sally Shaw

Knowler tried to find out, and posed these questions to FNB:

  • Is it true that FNB changed the payment dates of customers who did not respond to the SMS campaign, taking their silence as a yes?

  • How is that justified?

  • How many/what percentage of those clients later objected and had their dates moved back to the original one?

  • Does the bank intend to do that again?

  • Is the bank willing to refund Ms Shaw the fees she incurred as a direct result of having her payment date moved to the 15th against her wishes?

FNB’s response answered only one of the questions:

We can confirm that the misunderstanding on the monthly repayment date has been rectified. Any fees that may have been incorrectly incurred by our customer will be reversed with associated interest. FNB Credit Card encourages customers to maintain their credit card facility using a feature called ‘Maintain Auto Payment’ on the FNB App with the ability to manage their preferred payment dates.

Cilliers Kriel, CEO - FNB Credit Card

The bank failed to say anything about their illegal use of negative option marketing, or how many people fell prey.

Knowler tried again, even mentioning her intention to discuss the issue on The Money Show.

I think it’s important for people to know if this is something the bank intends to do again, don’t you?

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

FNB’s response:

We have nothing further to add.

FNB Corporate Affairs

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield asked Knowler to elaborate.

Listen to her discuss the case in the audio below.

Enjoy The Money Show, but miss it sometimes?

Get the best bits emailed to you daily, right after it ends:


29 August 2019 8:46 PM

More from ConsumerTalk with Wendy Knowler

cellphone-mobile-phone-user-chat-texting-SMS-apps-city-skyline-123rf

Here's how to stop dodgy subscription services from depleting your airtime

29 July 2020 6:44 PM

Unwanted charges on your cell bill? Struggling to unsubscribe from rogue content services that you never signed up for? Here's what you can do.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

covid-19-hand-sanitiser-face-mask-hygiene-sanitation-coronavirus-123rf 123rf

You may be using a hand sanitiser that doesn't work against Covid, expert warns

8 July 2020 6:04 PM

Hand sanitiser has become a highly sought-after product amid the coronavirus pandemic. But are all of them effective? Wendy Knowler investigates.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Missing Image Placeholder

This insurance company says it is paying out business interruption claims

24 June 2020 8:40 PM

Wendy Knowler, Consumer Ninja, investigates non-payment of business interruption claims during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

woman-on-cell-phone-pexels-freejpeg

'He sent through a fake bank payment notification' - beware Gumtree scammers

3 June 2020 4:47 PM

As South Africans look for ways to make extra cash, Gumtree South Africa has warned consumers not to fall prey to online fraudsters.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Missing Image Placeholder

The Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance report - what were the complaints?

27 May 2020 7:58 PM

The Ombud for Short Term Insurance’s aim is to resolve short term insurance complaints ''fairly, efficiently and impartially''.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Missing Image Placeholder

When credit life insurance goes wrong because of a UIF payment

20 May 2020 7:51 PM

Wendy Knowler, consumer Ninja, on the small print and pitfalls of credit life insurance.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

191118bankingjpg

The banking report is out - our Consumer Ninja takes a look

13 May 2020 8:00 PM

The annual banking ombuds report has been released. Were they good, were they bad; how many complaints have been received?

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Cars-For Sale-Automotive-Industry-Dealership-Vehicles-service-wheels-123rf

Car sales and repairs reopen, but no clarity on motor licensing offices just yet

13 May 2020 5:17 PM

Car dealerships and repair shops have been allowed to reopen under very strict conditions, explains consumer journo Wendy Knowler.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

claim-deniedjpg

Consumer Ninja: Many credit life claims are being rejected

6 May 2020 8:00 PM

It seems many credit life claims are being rejected. Here are nine companies that were named and shamed in a new report.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Missing Image Placeholder

Do I still have to pay my gym membership (and other consumer-related questions)?

29 April 2020 3:31 PM

You can send your consumer-related questions and queries to consumer journalist Wendy Knowler via consumer@knowler.co.za

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward