THE COMPULSORY ROTATION OF AUDITORS

Every public and state-owned company has to appoint an auditor and a company secretary. However, in terms of section 92 of the Companies Act, 2008, the same individual is not allowed to serve as the auditor or designated auditor of a company for more than 5 consecutive financial years.

What does this mean for my company?

  1. If an individual has served as the auditor or designated auditor of your company for 2 or more consecutive financial years, and then ceases the position, the individual may not be appointed again as the auditor or designated auditor of the company until after the expiry of at least two further financial years.
  2. If your company has appointed 2 or more persons as joint auditors, you must manage the required rotation in a way that all of the joint auditors do not relinquish office in the same year.

Despite the strict requirements for public and state-owned companies, it is not compulsory for private or personal liability companies to appoint an auditor, unless the company is required to produce audited financial statements.

Is this for the better?

It is understood that the external audit function is an activity of public protection and provides credibility to financial statements and assurance to investors. However, auditor rotation could lead to additional costs to companies, as the new auditor would be required to perform additional procedures on the opening balances of their new client.

In some areas, it could also impact negatively on the availability of auditors, as some towns only have a limited number of registered auditors. Auditors practicing as sole practitioners will also be affected, and could lose long-term clients unless they bring in another registered auditor and expand their practice.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

DO DEBTS LAST FOREVER?

Prescription was introduced as means of protecting South African consumers from dishonest credit providers, who are responsible for recklessly lending credit and have contributed to the detrimental debt crisis many South Africans face today.

What does prescription mean?

  • The Prescription Act 68 of 1969 (PA) says that a debt (payment of money) is extinguished/expired after the lapse (passing) of a specific time period.
  • South Africa has different laws which specify time periods, for example, the PA says contractual and delictual debts extinguish after 3 years from when prescription starts.
  • Prescription may be delayed or interrupted.

It is important to bear in mind that not all debt prescribes after a period of three years. Debt related to a cheque, for example, only prescribes after 6 years. The purpose of prescription in South Africa is to compel creditors and collections agents to collect money owed to them within a specified period and not delay collection so that it accumulates massive amounts of interest and costs.

What are the consequences of an extinguished debt?

  • The debtor is not liable to the creditor for a debt after the time period has lapsed.
  • The creditor may not institute legal action against the debtor for a debt.

When does prescription start?

As soon as the debt is due (a debt is due once the creditor can identify the debtor and the facts from which the debt arises).

  • If the debtor prevents the creditor from gaining knowledge of the debt (excluding debts arising from agreements) prescription runs from when the creditor has knowledge of the existence of the debt.

An important point to remember is that it’s perfectly legal for a debt collector or attorney to demand payment for a prescribed debt. It is up to a debtor to raise prescription as a defence.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

HOW TO REGISTER A TRADEMARK IN 2017

If you have a business and wish to keep competitors from using, or misusing, your brand, then you should consider registering a trade mark for your company’s name and logo.

A trade mark can only be protected and defended under the Trade Marks Act, 1993, if it is registered. However, unregistered trade marks may be defended in terms of common law. The registration procedure results in a registration certificate which has legal status, allowing the owner of the registered trade mark the exclusive right to use that mark.

 Where do I register a trade mark?

The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) administers the Register of Trade Marks which is the record of all trade marks that have been formally applied for and registered in South Africa.

A trade mark is only registrable if it serves the purpose of distinguishing the goods/services of one trader from those of another trader. Other points to remember include:

 It must not have become customary in your field of trade.

  1. It does not represent protected emblems such as the national flag or a depiction of a national monument such as Table Mountain.
  2. It is not offensive or contrary to the law or good morals or deceptive by nature or way of use.
  3. There are no earlier conflicting rights.

 How to register a trade mark?

  1. Register as a customer on CIPC: Go to the CIPC website (www.cipc.co.za). If you are already registered as a customer, and know your customer code and password, then continue with the next step.
  2. Deposit funds: Deposit the application fee of R590 regarding every class and every trade mark applied for into the CIPC bank account using your customer code as reference.
  3. Conduct a search: In order to conduct a search, you can request a special search from CIPC, or you can conduct a cursory e-search yourself.

A registered trade mark can be protected forever, provided it is renewed every ten (10) years upon payment of the prescribed renewal fee.

To make the process easier and more successful, then contact your legal adviser, who can lodge a trade mark application on your behalf and ensure all your documentation is correct.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

SOCIAL MEDIA: WHAT LINE CAN’T I CROSS AS AN EMPLOYEE?

There are cases of employees posting sensitive or disrespectful information and messages about their employers online. This might seem like an innocent joke with the people on your social media feed, however, the backlash is far more serious than that. The conduct of employees on social media platforms is also more frequently exposing employers to the risk of vicarious liability and brand damage.

In considering the risks to employers (and their employees), it is necessary to keep in mind:

  1. the impact of social media on the Constitutional rights to dignity, privacy and freedom of expression;
  2. the risks that defamatory or harassing statements may result in vicarious liability for employers;
  3. the risk of work place harassment and cyber-bullying and the impact of this conduct on the work environment; and
  4. what conduct may justify disciplinary action and even dismissal.

What if an employee posts something negative about their employers?

An employer does have recourse against employees whose social media blunders cause brand damage, or result in the disclosure of confidential information or vicarious liability. The CCMA has accepted that certain conduct on social media may warrant disciplinary action. However, the ordinary principles of fairness and equity apply. When investigating such conduct, care must be taken not to unlawfully infringe rights to privacy and the provisions of the Regulation of Interception of Electronic Communications Act.

In the case of Beaurain v Martin NO & others (2014), Mr Beaurain, was employed by Groote Schuur Hospital. During his employment, he raised various complaints regarding health issues at the hospital. Each complaint was investigated and he was informed that the complaints were without merit. Getting no joy from the hospital, Mr Beaurain started posting his complaints on Facebook. Eventually, the head of Mr Beaurain’s department addressed a letter to him to inform him that he was to stop posting his claims pertaining to health risks at the hospital, on social media. Mr Beaurain did not heed this instruction. This resulted in another letter in which was given a final warning to stop the conduct.

After an angered Facebook post where he attacked the state of the hospital, he was charged with gross insubordination and dismissed. Mr Beaurain referred a dispute to the Labour Court. His dismissal was found to be fair.

Conclusion

Not all comments on social media that are critical of an employer will warrant dismissal. For example, if the post constitutes conduct in alignment with a protected strike or amounts to a protected disclosure, dismissal is not allowed. However, employees should be careful not to post information regarding their employers that could put the brand name in jeopardy or reveal confidential company information.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)