Cancelling your TV licence

Are you paying for an SABC TV licence, but don’t own a TV? You are not alone. There are many people who are technically eligible to cancel their TV licence and yet continue to pay the annual fee year after year. Reasons for this include:

  • exasperation and finally giving up on the tedious cancellation process;
  • fear of prosecution;
  • not knowing how to go about cancelling their licence.

If you reside in South Africa and own a working television set, you are obliged by law to pay an annual licence fee to the SABC. Even if you never use your television. A television set is defined as any device designed or adapted to be capable of receiving a broadcast television signal, regardless whether it’s been relegated to a paperweight, dust-collector or computer monitor. But what if you no longer reside in South Africa, no longer own a television set or your television set no longer works? Well, that is where the challenge comes in. The SABC is quick to accept your licence fees and issue a licence – it is, after all, “the right thing to do”. But they’re not quite as efficient or forthcoming when it comes to cancelling a licence. Indeed, their website is remarkably helpful when it comes to applying and paying for your licence. Conversely, information about cancelling your licence is almost non-existent.

Some of the main reasons for cancelling your TV licence include:

  • You’ve sold your television, donated it to charity, or given it away to someone. To cancel your TV licence on this basis you will need to obtain the new owner’s details, including their full names, address, ID number as well as the new owner’s TV licence number.
  • Your TV was stolen (and you will not be replacing it). You will need to report the theft to SAPS, and supply the SABC with the SAPS case number.
  • Your television no longer works. The SABC may send an inspector to confirm that it is indeed broken.

How to cancel your TV licence?

  • Television licenses are paid annually in advance. To cancel your licence you need to do so within 30 days after the end of the current’s year’s licence. If you don’t do so, the forthcoming year’s licence fees will become payable.
  • To cancel your licence you need to complete an affidavit specifying the reason why you’re cancelling. It needs to be signed before a commissioner of oaths (eg. a police officer or attorney).
  • The affidavit needs to be emailed to the SABC.
  • Keep a copy of the email in case you need to provide evidence of your cancellation.

Remember that if you own other televisions, you will not be eligible to cancel your TV licence. If you owe the SABC any money, including penalties, interest, or previous years’ licences, you cannot cancel your licence. And before you can buy a new television set you will need to provide a copy of your TV licence. The SABC may also send an inspector to verify your reasons for cancelling. If they find that you still own a working TV, you will remain liable for the TV licence of R265 together with the inspection fee of R300, and may also be slapped with penalties as well as face criminal prosecution.

As far as the SABC is concerned, they’re not subject to the Consumer Protection Act (which permits cancellation on 20 business days’ notice and imposes quality of service obligations on the supplier), the National Credit Act (which limits penalty interest to 2% per month) or the Prescription Act (which renders debts older than 3 years to have prescribed). If you try to arbitrarily cancel your TV licence, and/or simply stop paying, you may find the SABC rejecting your cancellation, imposing interest at 10% per month, and accruing the annual licences (plus penalties and interest) over several years. So if you have a television, it’s recommended that you pay the nominal R265 per year (personal opinion on the SABC aside). But if you have a valid reason for cancelling, it is possible – though not necessarily effortless – to do so.

Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.