Paying your utility bill at a supermarket? Best you check the numbers, says Wendy Knowler

Paying your utility bill at a supermarket? Best you check the numbers, says Wendy Knowler

If you prefer to let a supermarket till operator do your utility bill paying, it’s a really good idea to check they’ve got the numbers right, warns Wendy Knowler in this week’s Consumerwatch.


I often warn people to check, check, and check again when making payments via EFT or at an ATM.

Choose the wrong beneficiary or transpose an account number and your money will end up as an unintentional gift in someone’s account. 
That someone may well choose not to give it back, and the bank can’t compel them to, leaving lengthy, costly legal action as your only option.

Just last night I got an email from a woman who transferred R60,000 to what she thought was a friend’s Standard Bank account from her FNB account. “Now the recipient is refusing to reverse the funds and the bank cannot help,” she wrote. It’s a story I hear so often.

But Joseph Slater alerted me to another problem area: like many others, he pays his utility account at his local retailer, and in such cases it’s the till operator you rely on to key in the right numbers.

But what if they don’t?

That’s what happened to Joseph nine months ago - his R980 went into the wrong municipal account nine months ago, and he’s only got his money back this week - after I took up the case.

Can your doctor charge you extra to write you a “special letter”? Yes, but there’s a big BUT, says Wendy Knowler 

If you apply for a medical aid or a long-term insurance policy, you’ll have to answer a lot of questions about your medical history - that’s how they assess your risk and thus your premium.

So it’s vital that you be as thorough as possible. Leave out a key doctor’s visit or tests and you could find your claim being rejected on the grounds of material non-disclosure down the line.

Zia needed such a medical from her previous GP for insurances purposes, which she got, but she also got an account in the amount of  R265 for “writing of special letter" from the doctor.

“Surely the practice had a duty to inform me at the time I requested it that there would be a charge attached to the request for my medical records?” she asked me. "Interestingly enough, the practice I am currently with did not charge me.”

The Consumer Protection Act requires service providers to disclose prices for their services upfront - unless you specifically say that you do not want a quote (never do that!)  - and clearly it’s just common courtesy to do so. But what is the Health Professions Council of South Africa’s view on this?

Listen to the full podcast below to find out what Wendy Knowler has to say on both of these subjects:

Contact Wendy

Get in touch with Wendy via her website or her Facebook page. Please note that Wendy is not able to personally respond to every email she receives. If she is able to take up your case, she will contact you directly. Here are other avenues for you to consider.

Listen to more podcasts from Wendy Knowler in the Consumerwatch channel below: 

Main image courtesy of iStock

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