Young people in South Africa often hear how their parents struggled to get basic human rights. People of colour were not free to enter any store which they wished to make a purchase; therefore, you can only imagine what the criteria was for them to be able to apply and qualify for credit not to mention being treated fairly in the credit industry.
Previously there were not many opportunities, less advancements in life, and less protection to consumers, there was not much hope. But now we have been given freedom. We have the right to apply for credit, consumers have protection against discrimination in respect of credit, right to reasons for credit being refused, right to information in an official language, right to receive documents, and protection of consumer credit rights. Therefore, we can confidently proclaim that hope has been restored and dreams are being turned into reality and do not end as just an illusion.
The question which arises is, are we making use of this freedom which has been granted to us, in terms of the National Credit Act (NCA)? And do we know what privileges the NCA provides to the consumer? Well, the NCA sets out the following FREE services which the consumer can take advantage of:
1. FREE Credit Report
Section 72 of the NCA states that the consumer has the right to receive a FREE credit report once annually from every registered credit bureau upon request. The National Credit Regulator reported in the Credit Bureau Monitor that in the 4th Quarter, December 2020, there has been a decrease of 6.87% for credit bureau requests, quarter-on-quarter. The Credit Ombud wants to urge consumers to contact the credit bureaus and request their FREE credit report if they have not done so in the past 12 months.
2. FREE assistance when logging a dispute at the credit bureaux
Consumers should not take knowing their credit status for granted, it impacts in your ability to be granted credit and for some consumers to even get employment. As one needs to advance in their life, you might need the assistance of a loan or even when trying times come, you might need to get an emergency loan and getting declined due to information that is reflecting on your credit profile, which may even be outdated or incorrect, will surely discourage you. Whereas you could have requested for your free credit report prior to applying for credit and should there have been any discrepancies, you have been afforded the right to dispute the information at no cost to you as the consumer. Once you have logged your dispute with the credit bureau, they will provide you with a dispute reference number and you will give the credit bureau 20 working days to resolve your matter. Should you not be satisfied with the outcome from the credit bureau, or you have not received feedback within the 20 working days, then you may approach the Credit Ombud for disputes against non-bank members, to further assist you.
3. FREE assistance at the Credit Ombud
We offer our services for FREE to consumers or businesses which have been negatively impacted by credit bureau information and when a consumer has a dispute against a non-bank credit provider who is a subscribing member of the Credit Ombud. When a consumer has logged their dispute with a credit provider or with the credit bureau and afforded the credit bureau and credit provided 20 working days in which to investigate their dispute and may not be happy with the outcome from them, they can approach the Credit Ombud for further assistance. And they need to have a dispute reference number from the credit bureau or credit provider. The Credit Ombud also has a FREE sms facility which consumers may make use of if they are short of airtime. By simply sending the word ‘HELP’ to 44786, one of our contact center agents will contact the consumer back to provide them with assistance.
The Credit Ombud promotes fairness, we will act in the best interests of all parties, taking both sides of the consumer and credit provider into consideration and considering the merits of each case carefully.
The above sets out clearly that what was previously not granted to all South Africans is now being freely provided to us, and the only thing that we are required to do, is to use all these opportunities to better our lives.The Freedom Charter proclaims that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it” and that “all shall be equal before the law”. These rights have been enshrined in the new Constitution of the democratic South Africa. And then the NCA further states that its purpose is ‘to promote and advance social and economic welfare of South Africans; to promote a fair, transparent, competitive, sustainable, responsible, efficient, effective and accessible credit market and industry, and to protect consumers.’ Freedom was not for all, equality and fairness were unheard of, and protection was only for a selected few. Let us be responsible citizens and consumers and nurture what was fought for us. FREEDOM!
Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud for FREE assistance if they experience any issues relating to credit agreements with non-bank credit providers such as the clothing and furniture retailers as well as micro-lenders, fraudulent listings, emolument attachment orders (“garnishee orders”) or general complaints about their credit bureaux listings. The office can be contacted on 0861 66 28 37; on the website www.creditombud.org.za; email us at email@example.com or send a SMS to 44786 and we will call you.