Can debt collectors contact you many years after you last had dealings with a company and demand that you pay some alleged debt? Yes, they can.

The Prescription Act is intended to give consumers some protection against debt collectors hounding you to pay a very old, inflated debt which we can barely recall.

But it does not preclude collectors from “chasing” prescribed debts.

It is up to the consumer to know about prescription and raise this as a defense in the face of a demand for payment.
If, in the past three years, you have not: made any payment towards settling a debt, acknowledged owing the money in any way or agreed to pay it, or been summonsed in respect of it, it has prescribed, and you can raise this as a defence when asked to pay such a debt.

The debt-collecting company or legal firm should close its file on you at that point. Some do, but others continue with the harassment via SMS, letter or email.

A threat which works well on most consumers is the one about being “blacklisted”, because it’s difficult to live without access to any form of credit. But the National Credit Act prohibits the listing of a prescribed debt.

It is therefore unethical for debt collectors to use the threat of “blacklisting” in the making demands for payments.