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Unpaid traffic fines put the brakes on renewing licences, says Outa

The RTIA is not complying with process on outstanding traffic fines and enforcement orders, says the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse

30 October 2020 - 09:39 By Denis Droppa
Outa claims enforcement orders were issued on motorists without courtesy letters having been served as required by law. Picture: SUPPLIED
Outa claims enforcement orders were issued on motorists without courtesy letters having been served as required by law. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has said some motorists are being unfairly prevented from renewing licences unless they pay traffic fines they don’t know about.

The organisation said the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) has flouted the law by not ensuring motorists are aware they have infringement notices for unpaid fines. Outa said it has received numerous complaints from motorists with outstanding enforcement orders that will prevent them from renewing their vehicle or driving licences.

In many cases, motorists were unaware of any outstanding infringement notices for unpaid fines. 

Outa claims the enforcement orders were issued without courtesy letters having been served as required by the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act.

“Whether the RTIA’s failure to comply with its process is attributed to capacity constraints or malicious collection practices remains a mystery,” said advocate Stefanie Fick, Outa’s head of legal. “Nevertheless, this cannot continue at the expense of motorists.”

Fick said there is a process to be followed once a motorist gets issued with a fine for a traffic offence.

According to the Aarto Act, infringement notices for traffic offences must be handed to a driver by a traffic officer or, if it’s a camera fine, delivered by registered mail. If the infringer doesn’t react to this for 32 days, a courtesy letter must be issued via registered mail. An enforcement order must be issued (again, by registered mail) if infringers fail to comply with the courtesy letter.

The absence of a courtesy letter also implies that the enforcement order may be unenforceable and can potentially be set aside by a court, says Fick.

“If motorists are confronted with enforcement orders at licence renewal centres, they don’t have time to apply for the revocation of the enforcement orders — a step they have a legal right to — and are forced to pay the outstanding amount.”

The RTIA says Outa’s assertions are untrue and that enforcement orders are being issued correctly.

“The enforcement orders are issued in terms of section 20 of the Aarto Act, 1998 (Act 46 of 1998) read together with regulation 7 of the Aarto Regulations, 2008,” according to the agency.

“Section 20(2)(b) of the act provides that an enforcement order must be issued when the registrar is satisfied that, [among other things], a period of at least 32 days has elapsed since a notice of unsuccessful outcome of a representation or a courtesy letter has been issued.”

Motorists who receive traffic fines have several options under the Aarto Act:

  • Make a representation to dispute a traffic infringement.
  • Nominate a new driver.
  • Apply for revocation of an enforcement order.
  • Arrange to pay for infringements in instalments; or
  • Elect to be tried in court.

Outa urges motorists to check whether they have enforcement orders on the Aarto website (www.aarto.gov.za) or call the RTIA call centre on 0861 227 861, especially before they arrange for the renewal of their motor vehicle or drivers’ licences.

Motorists can apply for a revocation of an enforcement order if the lawful process was not followed, by contacting organisations such as Fines4U to assist.

In 2017, Fines4U and Audi Centre Johannesburg took legal action against the RTIA for not following the correct procedure when collecting traffic fines, with the court making the RTIA reverse thousands of fines issued in Gauteng.