There are many complaints from consumers that attorney’s fees are very high and they do not know how to check what they can charge or how to challenge them.
Attorneys can also only charge fees according to the tariff set down in the Magistrate’s Court Rules. There are two tariffs for the Magistrate’s Court: a standard tariff and a higher tariff which only applies if the consumer agrees.
When the consumer signs a contract, there will usually be a clause which says that if the consumer defaults, the matter will be handed over to attorneys and the consumer will have to pay the attorney’s fees “on an attorney and client” scale. This allows the attorney to charge for more items but the amount that they charge is still controlled.
If you think that the consumer may be overcharged, ask for a full breakdown of costs statement and if you are not happy ask for the Bill to be taxed at court (negotiate as the consumer may have to pay for this).
It is difficult for a consumer to act on his/her own when challenging the legal fees because this requires expert knowledge. You can report the matter to the Law Society which is a society for lawyers in the different provinces, but they are not as independent as the ombuds offices are – the best thing is to find a free counselor or advice office or law clinic to take on the case.
Remember: With the in duplum principle of the National Credit Act on credit granted from 1 June 2007, legal fees are included in the calculations so they are more controlled than before.