Media Release: Recent SMS messages and emails masquerading as being from the RTIA

Recently, a private company called Syntell (Pty) Ltd which contracts its services to numerous traffic authorities around South Africa has embarked on SMS and email campaigns which purport to originate from the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (“RTIA”) seeking to rake in monies applicable to “stagnated” traffic fines issued by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (“JMPD”).

Syntell previously did similar with traffic fines issued by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (“EMPD”) in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, against which a national directive from the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions ordering the withdrawal of stagnated matters exists.

In the latest email campaign sent from “RTIA@trafficnotification.co.za” recipients’ names, full national identity numbers and vehicle details, as well as a list of some of their outstanding AARTO infringement notices are displayed for all to see. In numerous instances, the fines listed therein date back some five years, to 2012, when the JMPD ceased unlawfully violating Section 30(1) of the AARTO Act by posting bogus “AARTO infringement notices” it had captured on its own systems since April 2010 by “ordinary domestic mail”.

As was held in the High Court Review Judgment in the matter between Fines 4 U (Pty) Ltd and Audi Johannesburg versus Sherman Amos (the Deputy Registrar of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency) and others (Pretoria High Court Case number 30586/2014), the failure on the part of the authorities to comply with the provisions of the so-called “adjudication procedure” prescribed in Chapter III of the AARTO Act not only constitutes a legally valid defence, but also has the effect of rendering infringement notices which have not followed the prescribed processes as being “stagnated” and incapable of proceeding any further.

This judgment did not however have the effect of causing or ordering the RTIA to withdraw/cancel any stagnated AARTO infringement notices other than those which were cited in that review matter, despite having the effect of providing all similar accused persons with the same defence – that the authorities have not followed the prescribed processes.

As is the usual behaviour of the RTIA, it appears to be waiting for alleged infringers to make written representations to it in order have these stagnated fines withdrawn/cancelled, in the apparent hope that less informed motorists will pay these stagnated fines. It adopted exactly the same tactic in the previous matter where the JMPD acted unlawfully – until the JMPD and the RTIA found themselves being threatened with litigation if they did not administratively cancel all of the outstanding unlawful fines the JMPD had issued.

Furthermore, the RTIA now appears to again be favouring the JMPD by allowing the RTIA’s logo and motto to be emblazoned on emails sent by Syntell, referencing infringement notices issued by the JMPD only, while three other issuing authorities also issue AARTO infringement notices and have a stake in the collection of fines.

Nevertheless, from what we have been able to determine thus far, most if not all of the infringement notices referred to in these emails have stagnated and therefore, the threat which repeatedly appears in these emails stating that “*You will not be able to renew your vehicle or driving license whilst an Enforcement Order is outstanding” is, whilst not patently untrue, not only extortive in nature, but is an empty threat since no enforcement order may be lawfully issued on an arbitrary basis.

Sadly however, there appears to be no limit to the lengths to which dishonest authorities and service providers are prepared to go in order to drive their revenues up. This will not change until such time as traffic law enforcement starts to focus on road safety and stops focussing on how much money all concerned can make from pretending to enforce the law.

NOTE: JPSA has published an in-depth advisory on this matter here.