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Blacklisted? Know your rights

December 20 2000 at 08:31AM THE STAR
| Sueing & Being Sued in Small Claims Court | Reverse a Judgement | Debt
| What can you do about your judgment? | How is a civil court judgment granted against you? | How can you view your own Credit Profile? | Debt Crisis Centre |

This is the time to be jolly, and retailers are exhorting shoppers to splurge. But don't allow overspending to damage your credit profile.

Even if you keep a tight hold on the purse strings and meet all your financial commitments, you may find yourself listed by a creditor you have never had dealings with.

This should never happen, but in practice the wrong people unfortunately do get listed occasionally.

Richard Stothert of the Credit Bureau Association (CBA) said: "There is no prerequisite that a debtor must be positively identified when issuing a summons for debt in SA.

'There is a moral obligation to tell consumers why they have been rejected for credit' "As a result of this, a lot of the documentation sent to credit bureaus by creditors - or retrieved from the courts - may not have identity numbers for the debtor concerned.

"In those cases, credit bureaus may inform enquiring potential creditors of a possible match only."

There is, however, a code of conduct in place which prescribes the steps consumers can take to dispute the accuracy of information.

Stothert explained: "There is a moral obligation to tell consumers why they have been rejected for credit. If it relates to information received from a bureau, the credit grantor should advise the applicant from which bureau the information was received and provide all contact details.

"The applicant should make an appointment to view his/her credit profile. This may cost up to R35. Bureaus will also assist consumers by providing reasonable advice on how to get their credit profile record changed if possible."

Many consumers waste money in the hope of having judgments or defaults removed In terms of the code of conduct, a credit bureau must investigate once the accuracy of information is disputed and record this fact on the credit profile. If the investigation confirms that the information is inaccurate or can no longer be verified, the bureau must delete it promptly and inform subscribers.

Where a dispute remains unresolved after it has been investigated, the consumer can file a brief statement setting out the facts.

This will again be recorded against the credit profile, together with a summary of the statement.

The consumer can then approach the CBA, where the bureau concerned is a member, for a ruling in terms of the CBA constitution.

In the case of non-members consumers can contact the Consumer Affairs Committee at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Consumers who have been "blacklisted" with credit bureaus may be easy prey for credit-clearing companies who are not members of the CBA.

Many consumers waste money in the hope of having judgments or defaults removed. They are also often not aware that it is illegal for such companies to take money upfront and before the service was fully performed.

Consumers have the right to cancel any contract with anyone who runs a credit repair business within five business days from the date of signing.

Stothert explained: "Only recognised credit bureaus should be approached to assist people with creditor relationship problems.

"There are organisations which offer this service who are not members of the CBA. Charges by these organisations with regard to having listings removed are often extortionate to say the least. Remember that only the company which granted the credit can agree to remove an accurate default listing or judgment."

Even then, they are only likely to instruct the credit bureau concerned to do so if there was a valid reason for not paying, or coming to an arrangement in the first place.

It is unlikely a creditor will be forthcoming if the consumer did not ask to renegotiate payments in the first place.

In the case of judgments, where court orders have to be reversed, the only basis for rescinding an order would be if the consumer had a good defence, such as he or she was away overseas or did not receive the summons, and therefore could not attend to defend the action.

Should that be the case, the matter will be expunged from the record and the case set down again for hearing.

Losing a job may not prove to be a good reason to have a judgment rescinded, Stothert added.

The 'CBA' can be contacted at telephone 011-885-8519.

"A judgment will remain on your own or your business' credit profile for five years." ITC Bar