Recent SMS messages and emails masquerading as being from the RTIA

Since 21 September 2017, JPSA has been flooded with enquiries from members of the public who had received emails from the email address “RTIA@trafficnotification.co.za” craftily and deviously seeking to extort monies from them. These emails contain the logo of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (“RTIA”) and the words “Outstanding Infringements summary report as at 07 September 2017 (JMPD infringements only)” followed by a person’s name and full national identity number.

This is what the emails look like:

Below this “header” appears a schedule of outstanding infringement notices against the particulars of the person to whom the email was sent which looks something like this with *You will not be able to renew your vehicle or driving license whilst an Enforcement Order is outstanding trailing it:  

The above list includes up to 30 alleged infringements in it, which list may not necessarily be exhaustive, but only includes infringement notices issued by the JMPD.

And then there’s a table which looks like this:

Apparently, SMS messages have also been sent to some people, which look like this:

In both cases, the telephone number 011 036 7515 is listed as the contact number for the JMPD, however, this phone number does not exist in the real world.

So what’s the problem?

At the outset, it is important to note that we acknowledge that the reason people are receiving SMS messages and emails similar to this one is that they do indeed have outstanding infringement notices which exist against their particulars.

In most instances this would be as a result of a vehicle registered in the name of the person to whom the email is sent having allegedly committed one or more road traffic infringements – most probably speeding or parking infringement. If the infringement notice starts with the prefix “02” it’s most probably a speeding infringement and if it starts with the prefix “03” it’s most probably a parking infringement.

The likelihood of it being a parking infringement is extremely low, since the JMPD was well-known for its obsession for deploying hidden speed cameras and focusing on little other than speeding and little else, in the 16 years preceding the recent termination of illegally extended speed camera contracts, which may or may not have been revived by now.

JPSA’s issue is not with the fact that people are being notified of “traffic fines” which have been issued against those people’s particulars. Our “issue” is with the timing and manner in which this has been done since, without exception, those who have contacted us to ask about the ligitimacy of these emails have complained about not knowing that any of the fines listed had been issued, some of which date back 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”.

In most instances, even where they don’t date back as far as 2102, the fines listed in these emails have mostly “stagnated” and in so doing, become unenforceable since procedure has not been followed by the authorities. Syntell, the JMPD and the RTIA are acutely aware of this fact and it is the JMPD itself which has repeatedly complained in the media and elsewhere that the RTIA has not done its job, but has instead, allowed these fines to stagnate.

It is therefore JPSA’s assertion that the email and SMS campaign launched by Syntell (Pty) Ltd, masquerading as the RTIA is at best, devious and seeks to take advantage of that portion of the public who may be unaware of the fact that many, if not most of these fines have “stagnated” and cannot result in an enforcement order being issued – ever.

We know that many people do not like having to read through a detailed explanation before getting to the nitty-gritty of how to deal with a situation, therefore we will provide this up front. Detailed information is however available later in this advisory.

Practical advice regarding these email notifications

If you have received one of these emails, it is our advice that you visit the aarto.gov.za website without delay and get a full printout of all of your outstanding infringements. If you have any enforcement orders, deal with those first.

Unfortunately, we have lost all faith in the ability of the RTIA to act impartially, since they have actively demonstrated that they are not. If you have any enforcement orders, you may find that you are left with little choice but to pay them in order to complete any licensing transaction you may be trying to complete.

With respect to any other posted infringement notice (starts with the prefix “02” or “03”) which is still at the “infringement notice” or “courtesy letter” stage, download, complete and submit an AARTO 10 election to be tried in court form for each and every infringement which exists against your particulars.

This will prevent the so-called “adjudication procedure” from continuing automatically and/or unexpectedly and will help you exercise your constitutional right to a fair trial. If/when you are summoned (in terms of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act), you are perfectly entitled to raise the issue that the authorities have not complied with the so-called AARTO “adjudication procedure”.

Electing to be tried in court does not equate to unlawfully “evading liability” as has been asserted by the RTIA. Furthermore it does not equate to an intention of “flooding the court system” and would not be necessary if the RTIA simply had the credibility and genuine independence to “adjudicate” over matters from which it makes money.

JPSA and its Chairperson take extreme offence to the attitude of the RTIA that the Constitution does not apply to “traffic fines” and that issuing authorities and the RTIA cannot, or should not be held accountable by the courts.

Further details surrounding this issue

If you are interested in the full details surrounding this issue, please click on the button below.

Are these emails authentic?

No-one can be blamed for being suspicious of emails which appear out of the blue, claiming that they “owe monies” to anyone. In this particular case we can confirm that these emails are authentic insofar as they relate to the individuals who have received them, but this is only part of the story.

Please read on in order to fully understand why it is that although the facts contained in such emails are not untrue as such, the entire motivation and intention behind them is extremely devious and patently dishonest in nature.

Who or what is the “RTIA”?

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (“RTIA”) is a State Owned Enterprise which was created out of thin air by Section 3 of the AARTO Act.

The RTIA masquerades as being an “independent adjudicator between motorists and issuing authorities”. In reality however, when it comes down to the brass tacks of the AARTO Act, the RTIA is effectively little more than a “debt collector on steroids”, with far-reaching powers to effectively force the payment of traffic fines on behalf of all of the issuing authorities (traffic departments, etc.) where the AARTO Act applies and in order to create yet another revenue-focussed State Owned Enterprise.

We do not say this lightly and assert that the RTIA is not and never can be an “independent entity” which can be likened to the courts – even by the farthest stretch of the imagination.

More than 95% of the RTIA’s 2015/16 revenues came from its share of traffic fines, combined with the fees it raises upon courtesy letters, enforcement orders and written representations it makes unsuccessful; issued in terms of the AARTO Act. The grant it received from Parliament to sustain itself in that financial year represented just under one sixth of its salary bill alone.

Essentially, the RTIA can be likened to the proverbial wolf debating with a sheep who is going to have who for dinner! So much for its disingenuous motto: “justice in adjudication”.

Are these emails actually from the RTIA?

The domain names that are owned and operated by the RTIA are “aarto.gov.za” and “rtia.co.za” ONLY. Any emails which do not originate from either of these two domains are not from the RTIA itself, but from a third party who may or may not be authorised to send emails on the RTIA’s behalf.

We can unequivocally state that, even if these emails were sanctioned by the RTIA, they were not sent by the RTIA.

Who owns the domain trafficnotification.co.za?

The domain name “trafficnotification.co.za” is registered to Syntell (Pty) Ltd, one of the bigger private enterprise players in the traffic fines industry. Amongst a plethora of others, its clients include the JMPD, the RTIA, the EMPD and the City of Cape Town Traffic Services. The website www.paycity.co.za also belongs to Syntell.

Is Syntell authorised to use the RTIA’s logo?

Traffic fine “contractors” to the numerous traffic authorities throughout South Africa have been using the logos and/or badges of their clients in  email communications for ages now. Some have even gone so far as to establish call centres which redirect any queries meant for the traffic authority to whom they contract to their own private companies. In so doing, these private companies masquerade as being the actual traffic authority.

Syntell is no exception to this rule and simply loves plonking an official badge, logo and/or entity name other than its own on communications it sends out in an apparent effort to appear to be the traffic authority itself.

It is a fact that nowhere in the AARTO Act is the RTIA authorised to favour one issuing authority over another. This said, and given the fact that the RTIA has actively condoned may illegal practices under the AARTO Act in the past, is not beyond the realm of possibility that the RTIA may have authorised Syntell to use its name and logo in this particular email campaign.

However we would like to give the RTIA the benefit of the doubt and say it is unlikely that it and/or its management would have been so short-sighted to have authorised the sending of emails referring to outstanding AARTO infringement notices issued by only one issuing authority – namely the JMPD.

If the RTIA did indeed commission this email campaign, we are pretty sure that the Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department (“TMPD”), Gauteng Department of Community Safety (GDoCS) and the Road Traffic Management Corportation’s (“RTMC’s”) so-called “National Traffic Police” would like to know why it is that their fines were actively excluded.

Issuing authorities’ duty to properly serve infringement notices

Without exception, each and every person who has contacted us regarding these emails has asserted that they knew nothing about the alleged infringements prior to receiving this email.

  • Section 30(1) of the AARTO Act clearly prescribes that “Any document required to be served on an infringer in terms of this Act, must be served on the infringer personally or sent by registered mail to his or her last known address.”
  • Regulation 3(1)(b) of the AARTO Regulations clearly prescribes that “An infringement notice contemplated in section 17 (1) of the Act shall be issued and served or caused to be served to the infringer by registered mail, on a form similar to form AARTO 03 as shown in Schedule 1, within 40 days of the commission of the infringement.
  • Section 30(2) of the AARTO Act then goes on to introduce an unreasonable presumption that “A document which is sent by registered mail in terms of subsection (1), is regarded to have been served on the infringer on the tenth day after the date which is stamped upon the receipt issued by the post office which accepted the document for registration, unless evidence to the contrary is adduced, which may be in the form of an affidavit.”

Anyone who applies even a small portion of their mind would acknowledge that in order for someone to do anything about a traffic fine which has been issued against their particulars, they would need to know that this has happened. After all, how can anyone be expected to do anything about anything they know nothing about?

It’s one thing if a traffic officer stops you and issues you with a citation there and then, thus serving you with the infringement notice and making you aware of it immediately, but it is another issue entirely if you are not stopped, but instead have an infringement notice posted to you.

Without fail, each and every person who has queried these emails has asserted that they never knew anything about the existence of the infringement notices prior to the email and this can only mean that they were not served with them. In the vast majority of cases, the RTIA’s own “SAPO tracking detail” at its website confirms that service was not effected. Furthermore, in a high volume of cases, it also reflects that they were not even posted.

The RTIA’s duty to properly serve other AARTO documents

The AARTO Act is very specific in prescribing the processes which must follow one another within very strict, inflexible timeframes. The RTIA is responsible for issuing courtesy letters which must be issued if an alleged infringer has failed to exercise any of the so-called “elective options” upon an infringement notice within 32 days of the service of an infringement notice – and the issuing authority has informed the RTIA “in the prescribed manner”.

Once a courtesy letter has been issued, it must be elevated to an enforcement order if the alleged infringer has not exercised any of the three so-called “elective options” available to them in terms of a courtesy letter within 32 days of the service (or presumed service) of the courtesy letter. In the 2015/16 financial year, the RTIA issued 640,169 enforcement orders, arising out of 3,016,050 courtesy letters it issued.

All courtesy letters and enforcement orders must also be served in person or by “registered mail”. Remarkably, since the inception of the AARTO experiment in Tshwane and Johannesburg, the RTIA has not caused even a single courtesy letter or enforcement order to be served in person. Instead, it relies on “secure/hybrid mail” to post these important documents, despite knowing that there is something seriously wrong with the functionality of this product offering of the South African Post Office.

“Stagnated” fines

It has repeatedly been held that AARTO infringement notices which have not complied with the so-called “adjudication procedure” as is prescribed in the AARTO Act have “stagnated” – in other words, become unenforceable. The most recent reference thereto comes from a 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).

Simply put, because the AARTO Act prescribes the processes which must be followed by both, alleged infringers and the authorities, entities like the issuing authorities and the RTIA may not make things up as they go along. If no further action has resulted from the issuing of an infringement notice within the prescribed time frame, then no further action may lawfully result. This in turn causes that infringement notice to “stagnate”, wherein it cannot proceed any further.

Contrary to popular belief and arising out of inaccurate news reports, Judge Prinsloo and the High Court did not order that “all stagnated traffic fines must be cancelled” programatically. What his judgment did hold however is that anyone who becomes aware of the fact that they have such stagnated AARTO infringement notices against their particulars may raise the issue that that the so-called “adjudication procedure” has not been followed and for that reason, the fine should be cancelled.

Why is the RTIA keeping stagnated fines alive?

The practice of keeping traffic fines which have stagnated alive on websites and other computer systems is not new to South Africa, nor is it unique to the AARTO Act and/or the RTIA. In fact, this practice is so widespread that it would be impossible to list every traffic authority that does so. More accurately, we have been unable to find even one which doesn’t.

Where the AARTO Act is not in force, but instead the Criminal Procedure Act applies, there is even a  national directive from the National Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw and finalise any and all traffic fines issued by traffic authorities which have not resulted in the issuing (and service) of a summons within 18 months of the alleged offence. This is not a “new” directive as such, it merely standardises the former provincial directives which varied the time frame within which this process must happen. Nevertheless, all of these directives have been ignored by traffic authorities and their contractors since the year dot.

The apparent reasoning behind keeping stagnated fines alive appears to arise from a belief that some, less well-informed people will pay fines which simply cannot proceed any further in the false belief that the threats leveled against them will actually be carried out if they don’t pay. They can’t and therefore, asserting that they can is tantamount to extortion and outright fraud.

The RTIA’s reasoning for keeping stagnated fines alive appears to be predicated much along the same lines, except insofar as the AARTO Act doesn’t actually prescribe what must happen if the issuing authorities and/or the RTIA does not do their jobs. Very little legislation contemplates the failure on the part of authorities to do their jobs, quite simply because it is assumed that because they are law enforcers, they will.

If such authorities don’t do their jobs as prescribed, it falls upon the public to take the authorities to court in order to force them to act within the framework of the law.

Has JPSA written to the RTIA about this issue?

Since Howard Dembovsky and JPSA were grossly and unjustly insulted by politicians in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Transport in September 2016, we are done writing to the RTIA and others involved in the “AARTO issue”. Any future such debates will take place in a forum where politicians do not get to actively demonstrate their immunity from defamation suits.

UPDATE

On 27 September, the RTIA put out the following media statement, “apologising” for the so-called “communication error” in SMS communications. As you will see, no reference was made or even implied with respect to the email communications which were sent. JPSA takes a very dim view of this disingenuous and misleading so-called “apology” and has written to the RTIA to inform it as such.