By Emsie Martin
To reach a debt-free financial goal, you have to make certain you know your rights as consumer and that they are in actual fact applied. South Africans have the right to receive services or products of high quality and should in no way be abused that cause them to throw their hard-earned money into the water.
Following are a few things the consumer needs to be aware of when applying for certain forms of credit:
Consumer rights according to the National Credit Regulator in terms of the National Credit Act:
- The right to apply for credit.
- Protection against discrimination regarding credit.
- The right to be provided with reasons should credit be denied.
- The right to receive information and documentation in the language of your choice.
- The right to information and documentation in simple and comprehensible language.
- To receive documentation in their chosen ‘delivery/receipt’ option.
- To receive statements free of charge.
- To receive their free credit statement once a year or to request it from a registered credit bureau, as well as to question information or lodge a dispute (if proof can be verified).
- The right to confidential information.
- To apply for revision of debt/management/counselling.
Matthys Potgieter, debt expert at DebtSafe, emphasises that it is important for consumers to do their homework so that they can receive the best available terms and tariffs when applying for credit and which will then also fit their budget. Potgieter says consumers should receive a quotation before any credit agreement is entered into. This quotation must clearly state the fees and payment.
What does reckless lending mean?
- All credit providers must determine if the consumer can afford the loan and all loans must be entered into a register so that the consumer is not plunged into debt.
- Any credit provider who does not take into account whether the client can pay back the loan may be found guilty of reckless lending.
- Heavy fines can be handed down and the credit provider may even be disallowed to collect the debt.
- A consumer will not be protected if he or she does not answer the questions pertaining to the application process honestly and completely. In such cases the credit provider will not be guilty of reckless lending.
Where may consumers submit complaints?
- The Act advises consumers to sort out their complaints directly with the company, failing which an ‘alternative dispute settlement’ such as the ombudsman must be used.
- If the consumer tried to resolve the dispute with the company and did not receive a satisfactory response, he or she may contact the following offices:
For any complaints regarding a bank:
The Ombudsman for Banking Services
Tel: 0860 662 837 / 0860 800 900
For any non-bank credit, credit bureau or debt counselling complaint:
Tel: 0861 662 837
Fax: 086 674 7414
For any complaints regarding debt counsellors/debt counselling:
The National Debt Mediation Association
Tel: 086 111 6362
Before contacting the Credit Ombudsman regarding a credit bureau complaint, first contact the credit bureaux:
Tel: 0861 482
Tel: 0861 105 665
If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of any of the above, approach the NCR.
National Credit Regulator
Tel: 011 554 2600