You see posters on street poles. You may even get calls from telemarketers offering ‘credit repair’ or ‘credit rescue’ services. They all make the same claims:
“Credit problems? No problem!”
“We can erase your bad credit-100% guaranteed.”
“Create a new credit identity-legally.”
“We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever!”
“Get off the blacklist”
“ Do yourself a favor and save some money. Only time, a conscious effort and a discipline debt repayment plan will improve your credit profile. The office of the Credit Ombud (CO) is an unbiased organization that assists consumers and businesses to resolve disputes about negative credit bureau listings which consumers believe to be invalid and incorrect. In addition, as a not for profit organisation we do not charge for our services. If you apply for credit and you feel you have been declined because of unjustified negative information held at the credit bureaus, and you have attempted to resolve this with the bureau to no effect, then you can apply to the CO for assistance. The services of this office are FREE OF CHARGE.
Everyday, advertisements appeal to consumers with poor credit histories. They promise, for a fee, to clean up your credit report so you can get a car loan, a home mortgage, insurance, or even a job. The truth is, there is nothing they can do that you cannot do yourself – often for free. The only time that you need the assistance from an attorney is if you want to rescind (remove) a court order (usually a judgment).
The warning signs
– If you decide to respond to a credit repair offer, beware of organizations that:
– Want you to pay for credit repair services before any services are provided;
– Do not tell you your legal rights and what you can do yourself – for free;
– Recommend you do not contact a credit bureau directly;
– Advise you to dispute all information in your credit report without having verified the validity of such information with your credit providers.
The office of the CO is committed to protecting the consumer from being fooled by unrealistic promises made to them. No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. But you can request a reinvestigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. Everything a credit repair organization can do for you legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. If your application for credit is denied because of information supplied by a credit bureau, the company you want credit from must provide you with that credit bureau’s contact details and you can take steps to rectify the information which you feel is incorrect or invalid.
1. Obtain your credit report from the credit bureau – this is the first step. Without this you cannot see what may be wrong, nor can the CO intervene until credible evidence has been presented.
2. Lodge a complaint with the Credit Bureau specifying which information you are disputing on your report, and get a reference number – they have 20 working days to get credible evidence of the information on your credit report – at this stage the information in dispute MUST be removed from your record. (it may be returned later if proven to be valid)
3. If, after 20 working days, you are still disputing the record, you may lodge a complaint with the CO Call Centre 0861OMBUDS (0861 662837/ www.creditombud.org.za) using the same bureau reference number. At this stage the Ombud will thoroughly investigate all aspects of the complaint calling for written records and proof.
4. The Ombud will rule – this can be instantaneous or prolonged depending on the available evidence.
5. If the Ombud rules against you as the credit receiver, the disputed information will be relisted. If he rules in your favour, the information is expunged from your credit profile.
6. Should all of this still fail your satisfaction, you may then appeal to the National Credit Regulator.
Do it yourself check -up
Even if you don’t have a poor credit history, it’s a good idea to conduct your own credit check-up, especially if you’re planning a major purchase, such as a home or car. Checking in advance on the accuracy of the information in your credit report could speed the credit-granting process.
Credit Bureaus charge approximately R20 for a credit report, however note that as per National Credit Act you are entitled to one free report per year.
Some Credit Bureaus Contact Numbers:
Experian: 0861 10 5665
Transunion: 0861 866 466
XDS: 0860 937 000
Compuscan: 0861 514 131
As you can see, the Credit Ombud’s office can assist for FREE when it comes to disputing incorrect and invalid information on your credit report at the credit bureaus. Everybody is going through the difficult economic times, so let us be wise and take extra care with our money as consumers” concluded Manie van Schalkwyk, Ombudsman at the Credit Ombud.
The Credit Ombud acts as an independent body to assist consumers and businesses who feel they have been treated unlawfully or unfairly in the credit process in any of the following areas:
1. Being adversely, incorrectly and unfairly listed at the credit bureau.
2. If a consumer feels that he/she has been negatively affected by a credit provider’s conduct during the course of a non-bank credit agreement. In the past consumers had to employ legal services to resolve their disputes because there were no other alternatives available for them. The cost of pursuing the legal route is exorbitant and consumers were left “in the cold”. However, with the expansion of its jurisdiction, the Credit Ombud can assist consumers feel they have been unfairly treated or that their rights provided for in the National Credit Act, have been disregarded.
3. In respect of debt counseling matters there are a number of causes of complaints by consumers. As an example, consumers often receive demands from their credit providers whilst they have been making regular payments to the payment distribution agent or they are left in the dark in respect of the status of their matter. The Credit Ombud will investigate in order to facilitate a speedy resolution of the issues.
The Credit Ombud offers a FREE OF CHARGE service and complaints can be lodged by contacting the office on 0861 66 2837; www.creditombud.org.za. For general credit related information the office can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org