This month, DebtSafe is focusing on raising consumer rights awareness. Every year Consumer Rights Day is observed and celebrated on 15 March. And, it seems only appropriate to remind you and your fellow South African consumers that you have rights when it comes to taking out credit and that you CAN reclaim control of your finances when you experience over-indebtedness. It is critical to understand and actively exercise your various rights and responsibilities under the National Credit Act (NCA).
“An educated consumer is a protected consumer. Through ‘credit education’, you will allow yourself the confidence to know what to look out for when applying for credit and what recommended solution you have when you suffer a ‘debt overload’,”highlights Carla Oberholzer, a debt adviser at DebtSafe.
Oberholzer further encourages you to get familiar with the law, the National Credit Regulator‘s (NCR’s) role, and what your vital consumer rights entail:
The National Credit Act
The NCA (also referred to as ‘the Act’) became fully operational on 1 June 2007. The Act aims to provide improved consumer information standards and attempts to promote a fair and non-discriminatory platform for consumer credit while ensuring the process is regulated.
The National Credit Regulator
The NCR was established by the Act No. 34 of 2005 and functions as the ‘watchdog’ of the credit industry in South Africa. The NCR enforces credit bureaus, credit providers, and debt counsellors (for example) to comply with the Act.
The NCR ensures the development of an accessible credit market – mainly involving underprivileged persons, low-income individuals, and isolated communities. And, the regulating body also prides itself on promoting consumer rights through various awareness campaigns during March each year.
Your Essential consumer rights include (note – but are not limited to) the following:
- You have the RIGHT to apply for credit.
- You have the RIGHT to the disclosure of information (receive a quote, for example) before signing a credit agreement.
- You have the RIGHT to receive information in plain and understandable language.
- You have the RIGHT to the confidential treatment of your personal information.
- You have the RIGHT to access your credit report (for free, once a year) at any registered credit bureau.
- You have the RIGHT to challenge/dispute any incorrect information at a registered credit bureau.
- You have the RIGHT to apply for a legal, recommended service and process called Debt Review (when you can’t make ends meet and keep up with your debt payments).
March is the perfect awareness month to familiarise yourself with your various rights and implement them when applying for credit or dealing with excessive debt. You must get the help you need from registered professionals if you find yourself over-indebted. It is one of your most important consumer rights, after all.