With the recent introduction of the National Credit Amendment Act in Parliament earlier this year, the office of the credit ombud says it’s expecting an influx of disputes.
The new legislation, which was introduced in April, but is yet to be signed into law, aims to address shortcomings of the National Credit Act of 2007.
These changes seek to protect consumers from excessive credit-related fees and to offer them relief from blacklisting through the Removal of Adverse Credit Information.
The latter came into effect on 1 April 2014. As of this date, negative information relating to paid up judgments, for example, was required to be removed by the respective credit bureau.
Small business owners are viewed as consumers of credit products and are therefore covered by the act.
The ombud’s office settles disputes between consumers who feel aggrieved by financial institutions such as banks and other creditors.
This adds to the workload of ombudsman Mani van Schalkwyk’s office.
The ombud’s job includes attending to hundreds of credit-related complaints by consumers and businesses, says Neo Loeto the ombud’s project management officer.
“Grievances pertaining to consumers and businesses badly affected by credit information are handled by the credit ombud.
The ombud’s office offers the service free of charge, listens, and processes all relevant complaints until disputes have been resolved,” says Loeto.
She adds that this includes complaints lodged by black-listed businesses battling disputes.
Those who intend lodging complaints regarding garnishee orders and excessive debt collection can contact the credit ombudsman for assistance.
The office received and resolved 5 878 disputes last year, saving consumers a combined R3.8 million in refunds and in the value of debt removed after being overcharged by credit lenders.
Applying for assistance with the office is free of charge.
Provided the credit agreement was entered into in South Africa, disputes are monitored until the conclusion of an agreement and until a final decision is made by Van Schalkwyk.
Loeto says for those cases which the ombud cannot resolve itself, the office will refer dissatisfied customers to the relevant organisation.
“If consumers have a problem, but are unsure of whether or not the office of the credit ombud is the correct office to deal with, they should still contact the office as they will be directed to the relevant organisation for assistance if the matter does not fall within the credit ombud’s ambit,” says Loeto.
It is important to note that if business owners have lodged a dispute at any credit bureau and do not receive assistance within 20 business days or feel dissatisfied with the assistance provided to them by the bureau, they can escalate the matter to the office of the ombud for further assistance.
- Visit www.creditombud.org.za for more information.