Consumers in crisis

JOBURG - Frequent fuel hikes and mounting e-toll bills have left many cash-strapped Gauteng motorists facing tough economic times.

Despite Sanral’s claims that e-tolls would have little impact on consumers, shortly after its implementation experts warned that the system would inevitably impact the cost of doing business and the therefore raise the cost of living.

Nearly two months after the system was implemented, debt management firm Debt Rescue has noted a spike in the number of people seeking financial assistance.

According to Debt Rescue CEO, Neil Roets in the past few weeks the number of clients seeking help had nearly doubled compared to the same period last year.

“In the majority of cases it was mounting toll fees and the aggressive attitude of Sanral’s collections department that scared consumers into seeking help,” Roets said.

“Many of the new clients we signed up were already stretched to the limit because of the rapid increase in prices of everything from food to fuel, and the toll fees were the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

According to Roets, small business owners who operate vans and trucks were hardest hit because these vehicle classes were tolled at a much higher rate than passenger vehicles.

He added that many consumers were “facing ruin” and were forced to go under debt review to keep the sheriff from attaching their homes and assets.

The legal process to place clients under debt review required the debt counsellor to cut their expenses in order to settle their outstanding debts with creditors, Roets said.

However, he explained that motorists who prioritised outstanding e-toll payments over their other creditors out of fear of legal action could lose the protection that being under debt review offers.

“If they are sufficiently intimidated by Sanral’s bully-boy tactics and pay outstanding fees… and they miss a single payment to their creditors, they automatically lose the protection afforded to them by debt review.”

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