Beware the UIF application con, advice on banking charges & when to shop

It is illegal for any agency or person purporting to act on behalf of an applicant to charge a fee for submitting an application for UIF benefits.
Image: Leon Swart/123rf.com

In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

The UIF application con

It was inevitable that some would seek to exploit people’s desperation over Covid-19 related delays in Unemployment Fund (UIF) payments.

It is illegal for any agency or person purporting to act on behalf of an applicant to charge a fee for submitting an application for UIF benefits. But reader “Ryan” didn’t know that, and he’s not alone.

He responded to the website advert of a company offering to “provide assistance for anyone that does not wish to submit their own claim by visiting the department of labour offices, or make the necessary enquiries that are required, during the review of the claim by the department of labour” for a one-off “service fee” of R850.

“We hired them to help us with getting our former domestic worker’s payments in order as we’ve been paying UIF for her,” he said.

The fee demanded was higher than that advertised — R895. “A few weeks and several e-mails later, many of which were unanswered, we inquired if everything was in order for our former employee to start drawing benefits and we were told that now we need to supply them with her banking details — for an additional R895 because ‘that’s a separate department’,” Ryan said.

“Do we just cut our losses and abandon this, or do we pay yet again, something which feels like extortion at this stage?

“That’s a total scam,” said Cape Town-based labour lawyer Michael Bagraim. “It’s illegal to charge someone to help them with their UIF claims, and the fund doesn’t deal with third parties — you have to claim directly.”

Spread the word.

Are you paying too much for that cash?

Despite a dramatic swing towards digital banking, SA is still a long way away from a cashless society, with millions of people still withdrawing and depositing cash, even now amid fears around banknotes being contaminated with the coronavirus.

Many people are unwittingly paying far too much to move their cash around.

For example, a Capitec customer is charged R8 per R1,000 to withdraw cash from one of the bank’s ATMs, and R9 per R1,000 if they use another bank’s ATM, but if they request cash at a Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Checkers or Boxer tillpoint, they pay a flat R1.20, with the added bonus of security.

Likewise, depositing cash at an FNB branch costs a hefty R80 plus R2.50 per R100, and Absa customers pay R60 plus R2 per R100 to deposit cash in a branch or R2 per R100 at an ATM. So an ATM deposit of R2,000 would cost R40.

In contrast, Pick n Pay announced this week that its customers can now deposit up to R5,000 cash at any till point in SA, including at its stand-alone clothing stores — into any SA bank account — for a set fee of R19.95. All you need is your bank card and your PIN.

Enabling deposits at till points is said to bring “a new level of convenience to individuals and small business owners”. Good to know.

New habits die hard

Want to avoid having to queue to get into a supermarket? Go after 4pm — the time when supermarkets were always busiest, pre-lockdown.

A report released this week by vehicle recovery and fleet management company Netstar shows that the Covid-19 lockdown has turned SA retail behaviour on its head, and the new normal looks set to outlast lockdown.

Thanks to the telematics technology it uses to track client vehicles, the company discovered during May and June that the new shopping rush happens in the middle of the day, as opposed to after 4pm, when people were returning from work, pre-lockdown.

“With more remote work and fewer commutes, it appears that shopping is becoming the focal point of the day for some people, instead of an errand to be squeezed in after work,” said Netstar MD Pierre Bruwer.

Most shopping trips happened around midday during level 4 and despite curfews and business restrictions being lifted in level 3, the new shopping patterns have persisted.

There are provincials variations, though. In Gauteng, some grocery chains saw relatively constant shopper volumes through the day, and then sharp reductions after 4pm. Others saw their busiest times between 8am and 10am. In the Western Cape, most grocery shopping happened between 10am and noon, with a similar steep drop-off after 4pm.

“Our data shows that people are shopping earlier in the day, and doing it closer to home than they did before the lockdown,” Bruwer said. “This could be one example of how the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown changes consumer behaviour in the long term.”

Smaller stores have become popular, possibly as a result of consumers choosing to avoid crowds at large stores and malls.

GET IN TOUCH: You can contact Wendy Knowler for advice with your consumer issues via e-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za or on Twitter: @wendyknowler.

BY: WENDY KNOWLER

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