The above is one of the rights of consumers as per the National Credit Act. The National Credit Act (NCA) was introduced to create a fair and non–discriminatory marketplace for access to consumer credit, by among other provisions, prohibiting certain unfair credit and credit-marketing practices and promoting responsible credit granting. The Act also introduced several important consumer rights. One of these include the Right to receive documents. Every document that is required to be delivered to a consumer in terms of the NCA must be delivered either in person at the business premises of the credit provider by ordinary mail; prepaid registered post; fax; email; or printable webpage. These ‘Documents’ include your credit agreement and your monthly statement of account or any other document pertaining to your account/debt.
Why is it vital to receive documents, to the point that it’s even included in your rights as a consumer? The documents are proof of the agreement between the consumer and the credit provider and the monthly statements are to keep track of payments being made by the consumer as per the agreement. The ‘documents’ are there to protect both the credit provider and consumer.
The NCA deals with obligations of a credit provider vis-à-vis statements of account. Credit providers must deliver periodic statements in terms of Section 108. In respect of mortgage bonds, a credit provider would be required to furnish statements every six months; on secured loans, instalment agreements and lease agreements, every two months; and for all other credit agreements, monthly. If a consumer wishes to settle a credit agreement, the credit provider may not charge for the settlement statement.
The Credit Ombud often receives disputes where consumers’ dispute having received their statements of account, challenging the interest and charges to the account or may have other
queries on the amounts debited. The jurisdiction of the Credit Ombud, having been tasked with enforcing fairness within the credit industry, continues to play a significant role by assisting both consumers and credit providers in reaching amicable resolutions in disputes relating to their statements of account, among others.
Recently, a consumer logged a dispute relating to a credit agreement signed between the parties in 2003. The consumer went on to explain that no statement of the account was provided notwithstanding that the account was closed. During October 2019, the consumer began receiving smses demanding payment regarding purchases made on the account. The consumer disputed having made the purchases and alleged that the purchases were, in fact, fraudulent. While there were more than one issue raised by the consumer, i.e. that the account was allegedly closed and that fraudulent purchase had been made on the account, the Credit Ombud forwarded communication to the credit provider requesting a formal response to the issues raised including a request for a comprehensive statement of account. This was necessary to gather the facts on the dispute. In receiving the comprehensive statement of account and additional supporting documents, like proof of payment, specimen signatures and an affidavit, our office was able to engage with both parties to finalize an assessment on the dispute. We scrutinized all payments made, interest and other charges debited to the account and established that notwithstanding full payment of the outstanding balance, no ‘paid-up’ letter had been furnished to the consumer. In effect the account had remained active and had been incurring monthly charges when a fraudster made purchases on the account. The credit provider was keen to finalize the dispute after having conducted an in-house forensic investigation into the fraud allegations made. The balance on the account was written off and the consumer was provided with a ‘paid-up’ letter.
The above illustrates the importance of receiving a statement of account and a ‘paid-up’ letter.
Should a consumer dispute a debit or credit appearing on the statement of account or have any other query relating to the outstanding balance due to interest or cost charges, the consumer must initially approach the credit provider. The credit provider would then be able to clarify the consumer’s queries. Where necessary, if an error has been established, the statement of account may be recalibrated, and an updated statement provided to the consumer. Should the dispute remain unresolved, the Credit Ombud shall be able to investigate the matter. The Credit Ombud also assists with complaints against our members relating to over-charging of interest, hand-over amounts, duplicate collections, fraud, and other issues relating to an account.
Should you wish to log a dispute, provided you have followed the process of allowing the creditor 20 working days to resolve your matter, you may do so by calling us on 0861 662 837; sending a SMS to 44786 (free of charge); emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our website complaint form which can be accessed at www.creditombud.org,za.