Cleaning up the mess

Consumers are seeking credit without planning. The numbers reflect that we have more
credit active consumers, but they still lack in checking/requesting for their credit reports
even with the provision given by the National Credit Act, of the right to receive a free credit
report every 12 months from each of the major credit bureaux. As at March 2023, the
credit bureaux held records of a little over 27 million credit active consumers. Of the 27
million consumers, only 757,445 credit reports were issued to consumers, per the
National Credit Regulator’s Credit Bureaux Monitor.

The Credit Ombud emphasizes the need for and importance of planning before you apply
for credit. The lack of planning may result in your application getting declined and that
may lead to you as the consumer going for alternative ways of getting credit, such as
approaching unregulated or unregistered credit providers, loan sharks and mashonias.

Consumers have a right to know reasons behind a credit application being declined. This
makes it easier for you as the consumer to fix wherever there is an issue. An affordability
assessment is done by the credit provider to measure the level of risk of an applicant.
Should they decline your application, it could be that there may be negative information
reflecting on your credit report, or you simply cannot afford to have additional debt based
on your income versus expenses.

Credit bureaux holds millions of credit information and there are instances when the
information being held, may be incorrect or outdated. It is another right which you have
been granted as a consumer to check your credit report and challenge any information
which may be incorrect on your credit report, by disputing this for free. Should you have
logged your dispute with the credit bureau and after 20 working days have not received
any feedback or should it be that they provide you with feedback, but you are not satisfied
with the outcome from the bureau, you may approach the Credit Ombud and lodge your
complaint with our office. We do not charge to investigate your complaint.

The Credit Ombud investigates an array of credit information cases, where consumers
are disputing incorrect or outdated information reflecting on their credit reports. And we
want to share one case in particular that will highlight the importance of keeping a clean

Mr. Biyana* approached our office after he had followed the regulated dispute process of
lodging his complaint with the credit bureau first and affording them 20 working days to
investigate. His complaint was about a default judgement which was listed on his credit
report. It was due to missed payments by Biyana that resulted in the credit provider
instituting legal proceedings and a default judgment was granted in December 2011.

Upon our office assessing the credit report we found that the default judgment was only
listed on the consumer’s credit report in February 2022. The National Credit Act,
regulation 17 states that a judgment must be listed for a maximum period of 5 years, but
also qualifies to get removed sooner if the judgment debt was settled by the consumer.
In this particular case, the 5-year retention period was in December 2016. The credit
provider confirmed that their process was indeed incorrect therefore the default judgment
was removed from the consumers credit report.

Had Biyana not exercised his right to access and dispute incorrect or outdated information
on his credit report, he may still have a default judgment listed on his credit report. This
would impact on Biyana’s ability to be extended credit if he required. The investigation
also led to the credit provider realizing the error and it gave them the opportunity to rectify
it and restore their relationship with the consumer.

The current economic climate is the opportune time to ensure that your finances are in
order. If you have never contacted the credit bureaux to request your report, then do so
now. There are 6 major credit bureaux, namely;
• TransUnion
• Experian/CompuScan
• Consumer Profile Bureau
• VeriCred

The Credit Ombud ensures that all disputes that come through our desks are dealt with
fairly. When a consumer finds themselves at a stalemate with the credit provider or the
credit bureau, they may often feel powerless and think that there is no way that they could
possibly get a fair resolution to their query. But not all hope is gone because the consumer
may approach the Credit Ombud with their query so that it may be investigated fairly,
independently, and honestly. The types of complaints we investigate are:
• Overcharging of interest or fees
• Prescription of debt
• Reckless lending
• Debt collection issues
• Fraud
• Emolument attachment orders/Garnishee orders
• Unfairly or incorrectly listed at the credit bureau (judgments, defaults, etc.)

We are reminding consumers and urging them not to keep quiet when they find
themselves in credit disputes. Knowing that there is an office that offers their services for
FREE to consumers who may have non-bank credit agreement and credit bureau
information disputes, is a comfort.