If complaints to customer service website hellopeter.com, posts on social media and letters to the editor of Personal Finance are anything to go by, Edgars accountholders are up in arms over the new service fee of R22.80 a month, which came into effect in early July.

According to a statement from Edgars to Personal Finance this week, Edcon customers were notified of the new fee when they were sent their December statements, and “a specific communication” about the introduction of the fee was sent to all customers on June 3, 30 days before it was to take effect.

Customers would have received this communication in the form that they elected to receive their statements: post, email or SMS.

In terms of the National Credit Act (NCA), a credit provider is entitled to charge a monthly service fee of up to R60. But until now, Edgars has not charged accountholders such a fee.

In 2012, Absa bought Edcon’s store card book, which had 3.3 million accountholders at the end of December last year.

Geoff Lee, the head of Absa’s card division, says that, in light of the amendments to the NCA, which provided for a reduction in the maximum interest rate on credit agreements, “both Edcon and the credit provider, Absa Bank, have had to amend our credit agreements to introduce a monthly service fee.

“Although these fees were waived by Edcon in the past, given the reduction in the interest rates, it has now become necessary to charge a fee of R22.80.”

The statement from Edgars says that, since July, customers had the option of either accepting or declining the service fee “when prompted to do so in store”.

The imposition of a fee where there was none constitutes a change to the terms and conditions of a credit agreement, attorney Stephen Logan says. This is why Edgars clients have been asked to accept or refuse the fee. However, communication from Edgars has been silent on the consequences of refusing the fee.

A spokesperson for Edgars this week said that, although the customer has a right to decline the service fee, “the credit provider reserves the right to review and close the account with notice as required under the NCA”.

Some accountholders who refused to accept the fee – by signing their till slips in a store – claim they have been charged the fee. Edgars says such customers can call 0860 112 442 so that Edgars can investigate.