JEDDAH: People in Saudi Arabia with legal judgments against them for failing to pay money they owe, or failing to carry out a judicial order, will no longer automatically be denied access to all online government services.
However, anyone who owes more than SR1 million and fails to pay it back within three months will be jailed.
Minister of Justice Walid Al-Samaani said the changes mean that the suspension of e-government access will be limited to services that involve financial transactions. Previously, it also prevented people in debt from using other online government services, such as renewing a driving license, passport, car license or ID card.
Yousef Al-Husaiky, a lawyer in Jeddah, said that he was surprised by the decision to lift the suspension of e-government services for those in debt, because before it was introduced, creditors often faced a long wait before getting their money back.
“It was a big problem for creditors until the service suspension came,” he said. “It forced debtors to implement court orders.
“That was a key factor in helping creditors get their money back. Suspending the electronic services of debtors who failed to fulfill their obligations was a good decision and has helped many people (reclaim what they were owed). That law does not exist in any other judiciary system.”
However, he added that the ministry would not have changed the law unless there was a good reason to do so.
“I think the main reason behind the decision was the fact that the ministry does not want the family of a debtor to suffer,” he said.
“There will always be reviews of laws to make sure that the public is receiving fair and equal treatment. What is happening in the Ministry of Justice is a true revolution that aims to meet the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030.”
However, some people fear that creditors will suffer as a result of the changes.
“The majority of people are simple and their debts rarely exceed one million,” said schoolteacher Salah Al-Zahrani. “That means debtors can now delay paying back creditors, which is the thing that puts the latter in trouble.”