Happy Human Rights Month to each and every South African. Since Human Rights Day and World Consumer Rights Day are highlights on the government’s calendar, DebtSafe has dedicated March to create awareness of consumers’ rights. One thing is for sure when it comes to consumers, their rights and credit – DEBT does NOT discriminate.
According to South Africans’ human rights they have the right to: equality, human dignity, freedom of movement, residence, language, culture and life. Having the opportunity to take out credit aka debt can surely help citizens to achieve some of these rights. How exactly? Debt does not discriminate because it is available to most – helping citizens to live life to the fullest. The danger and red light, however, comes in when consumers are uninformed about their rights and their (or their creditors’) responsibilities regarding the borrowing or lending process of credit.
When consumers are fully aware of what their rights are, DEBT won’t try to ‘mess around’ with their financial future and might also not be able to indirectly, threaten their human right to (financial) freedom.
Consumers need to make sure that they educate themselves about the following: what the National Credit Act (NCA) entails, what the role of the National Credit Regulator (NCR) is, and what their various consumer rights are.
The National Credit Act in a nutshell
The NCA (also referred to as ‘the Act’) became fully operational on 1 June 2007. The Act aims to provide improved standards of consumer information and attempts to promote a fair and non-discriminatory platform for consumer credit while making sure the process is regulated.
About the National Credit Regulator
The name is evident – the NCR is the ‘regulating body’ of the South African credit industry. The regulator was established by the National Credit Act No. 34 of 2005.
The NCR, therefore, encourages/promotes the development of an accessible credit market – mainly involving underprivileged persons, low-income individuals and isolated communities. Credit bureaus, credit providers and debt counsellors are enforced by the NCR to comply with the Act.
Ten basic consumer rights
Hereby, a few consumer rights as emphasised by the Act and the NCR. South African consumers need to take note – they have the right to:
- Apply for credit.
- Receive protection against discrimination when applying for credit.
- Reasons for the refusal of credit.
- Be given documentation/information in an official language.
- Be given information/documentation in plain or understandable language.
- Receive documents relating to the relevant credit transaction/agreement.
- Privacy of any personal information.
- Access and challenge credit records and information held by credit bureaus.
- Receive recurrent statements.
- Apply for Debt Review (in the case of severe debt/over-indebtedness).
Yes, debt does not discriminate and is available to South African citizens. But consumers are encouraged this March to start making sure they know their rights. This can enable them to then take care of their own financial situations and manage their credit obligations in such a way that they avoid a debt mess or entanglement.