Consumer Law > Problems in Consumer Law > 12. How to Respond to a Summons for Payment of Debt
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12. How to Respond to a Summons for Payment of Debt

Mr Johannes receives a summons from Prep Stores saying that he owes them R1 200 and that he has not paid his account with them for four months.

What does the Law Say?

Mr Johannes is under contract to pay Prep Stores every month and he has an obligation to pay his monthly instalments as per the contract. He must respond to the summons immediately. There is no time to delay if a person receives a summons and it should never be ignored. After Mr Johannes receives the summons, he has five working days to respond in order to:

  • Make arrangements to pay the money he owes, or
  • Consult an attorney, or
  • Inform the court that he intends to defend himself (file a Notice of Intention to Defend) in which case he will need to make a plea (plead guilty or explain why he believes he is not responsible for the debt).

Once a summons has been issued, Mr Johannes may no longer apply for a debt review with a debt counsellor. He should consult a attorney if he intends to go to court.

If Mr Johannes ignores a summons to appear in court about his debt, then a default judgment by the court will be made and he will be ordered to pay the money owing. This will include the outstanding debt plus the interest that has been added to it, plus the legal costs of the court order.

What Can You Do?

If Mr Johannes agrees that he owes Prep Stores (the credit provider) but he cannot afford to pay the outstanding amount, explain that he needs to try and make an arrangement with the shop’s attorney to pay off the debt. You can help him do this or get the help of an attorney.

If Mr Johannes has agreed to pay a certain amount to the attorney, then this amount must be paid at the attorney’s office – if that is the agreement. If he forgets to pay a single instalment, then the creditor can take him to court. If Mr Johannes is taken to court, he will have to pay the other side’s legal costs. This can be very expensive.

If Mr Johannes denies that he owes the money, then he should inform the court that he intends defending himself. He can do this by contacting a attorney to act on his behalf or he can go to the court by himself and fill in a form which tells the court and the other side that he wants to defend the case. This form is on the back of the summons and is called a Notice of Intention to Defend. Ask the Clerk of the Court how to fill this form in. He will be informed when he has to appear in court. He will have to go to court and explain to the court why he doesn’t think that he owes the shop the money. The court will then make a decision.