Consumer Rights Day (15 March 2019) is just around the corner and it is about time that consumers get up to date with what their basic rights are…

This year’s theme is: ‘Trusted Smart Products’ and the South African government’s aim is to make sure that the practice of companies is safe, fair, ethical and honest for any consumer.

To be able to support this goal, Carla Oberholzer, public relations officer and debt adviser at DebtSafe, therefore, encourages South Africans to protect themselves when ‘borrowing’ credit and to acknowledge their basic rights in the process:

  • Consumers are allowed to apply for credit, except when the consumer is already under Debt Review / Debt Counselling.
  • Consumers can query the reason why a credit application was denied. If it happens that a consumer’s credit score is incorrect – the consumer is allowed to ask for the contact details of the specific credit bureau to take the matter further and dispute his/her credit profile/score.
  • They have to obtain documents in simple or clear language as well as their preferred official language.
  • They are able to choose how they want their documentation delivered (for example in person, or by mail, fax or e-mail).
  • Since it is also Human Rights Month – it is important for a consumer to know that a credit provider must not unfairly discriminate against him/her.
  • Consumers are allowed to receive one free credit report each year by any of the registered credit bureaus in South Africa. Some of the well-known ones are: Compuscan, TransUnion, XDS and Experian.
  • They have the right to privacy and the protection of their consumer rights. Credit providers are, therefore, required to protect the confidentiality of the consumer’s information.
  • Consumers should not be misled by creditors’ marketing gimmicks. The creditor’s advertising method/display needs to contain all the necessary costs, terms and conditions or credit information.
  • Consumers should be aware of reckless lending (when a credit provider has not done the proper affordability check during the credit application process). But they should also be honest when disclosing information from their side to avoid ‘reckless borrowing’on their part.
  • South African consumers can apply for Debt Review / Debt Counselling if they are stuck in a severe debt mess. They have to make sure that the Debt Counsellor they choose is registered with the National Credit Regulator (NCR). DebtSafe is registered with the NCR and therefore an option to help fix their debt mess.

It is time for consumers to know exactly what is allowed to happen during a credit application process. The above ten tips can help protect them in an unfair or daunting situation. Lastly, it is the consumers’ own responsibility to manage their finances well and to know when they should or should not, in fact, apply for credit (due to their current financial position).

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