Reserve bank teaches customers about AC DebiCheck

In line with its endeavour to provide financial literacy, to aid South Africans to make smarter decisions with their hard-earned cash.

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) set out a mission to school the masses on an industry innovation – a first for the world and first introduced in SA: The Authenticated Collections (AC)/DebiCheck project.

It was launched in May last year, and is still in the process of being implemented as the standard practice, when it comes to debit order.

According to Darren Chamberlain, Economist at the Sarb, the AC DebiCheck project has truly helped South Africa solve a number of suspicious debit order issues from rogue agent. He explained how. But first, a little background into the history of the rogue agents South Africans often encountered.

The ‘R99 debit scam’

In 2014, a number of South African millionaires were hauled into the limelight after their illegitimate debit order practices had come to the fore.

According to media reports, in one of the incidents, customers were being charged R85 a month for a three to five year subscription, based on verbal mandates. At the time, verbal mandates were quite acceptable to authorise a debit.

The problem was, many of them had entered into the verbal agreement unknowingly, and when they had seen the R85 debit from their accounts, they considered the amount too insignificant to follow up – given the lengthy process at the bank to stop a debit order. As a result, the scam grew, acquiring more and more unwitting customers. It was only when one customer complained on a public platform that the scheme was looked into.

More recently, the Gauteng Hawks apprehended alleged fraudsters – a father and his son – who were arrested in connection with a scam involving unauthorised R99 debit orders that caused bank clients to collectively lose R18 million.

According to media reports, the men allegedly created a fraudulent bank payment system to collect debit orders for call centres, which resulted in unauthorised debit orders.

ResBank steps up with more secure system

In lights of these incidents, Sarb has since introduced the AC DebiCheck project. The project is a first of its kind that seeks to address the increasing levels of abuse in the debit order payment system, known commercially as the early debit order (EDO) payment system.

The AC/DebiCheck payment system was implemented on 1 August 2018. Owing to the complex nature of the AC/DebiCheck system, a lengthy ramp-up period was required to ensure that all stakeholders in the EDO collections ecosystem had implemented and tested their internal processes and interfaces to the AC/DebiCheck payment system. Companies or users of the system had until 1 November 2019 to fully implement the AC/DebiCheck payment system.  Since the implementation date, companies or users have been requested to begin using the system for all EDO collections.

According to Chamberlain, the new system requires clients to complete an authorisation process for new debit orders. Standard Bank explains the process:

We will send you an SMS to approve your new DebiCheck mandateIf correct, you can confirm the debit order details suppliedOnly if you accept, will the debit order be processedIf you reject the debit order, it won’t go throughIf your details don’t match the debit order, we won’t process it.

Chamberlain says that in this way, they are able to combat the schemes of rogue agents.

Meanwhile, South African Banking Risk Information Centre explained the scale and complexity of DebiCheck means that it has taken a great deal of work and time to implement. But new DebiCheck debit order customers are already receiving confirmation requests from their banks, although there is still work going on to mature the systems and to fully implement all functionalities required by users and banks.