As a consumer of credit, you have extensive rights in terms of the National Credit Act (NCA). But many consumers who complain to the office of the Credit Ombud don’t know their “credit rights”, which is an important aspect of their human rights, Nicky Lala-Mohan, the Credit Ombud, says.

In view of Human Rights Day this coming Tuesday, the Credit Ombud, which is tasked with resolving complaints from consumers negatively impacted by credit-bureau information and from consumers who have disputes with their creditors, says consumers should familiarise themselves with their credit rights.

These include your right to:

1. Access and challenge your credit records and information. When you ask for your credit report, the report you are given must disclose the same information that will be displayed to other parties when they view your report. If you challenge the accuracy of the information contained in your report, the entity that listed the information has 20 days in which to prove that it is accurate, failing which the credit bureau must remove the information and all records of it from its files.

2. Apply for credit. Every adult person has a right to apply to a credit provider for credit. Being granted the credit is however not an automatic right.

3. Protection against discrimination in respect of credit. A credit provider must not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against a person applying for credit.

4. Reasons for credit being refused. On request from a consumer, a credit provider must advise a consumer, in writing, with the reason for refusing to enter into a credit agreement; offering a lower credit limit; refusing to increase a credit limit; or refusing to renew an expiring credit card or credit facility. The ombud says few consumers know about this right to exercise it when they are denied credit. In most instances when they are declined credit, they think it is a case of “blacklisting”.

5. Information in an official language. You have the right to receive any document that is required in terms of the NCA in an official language that you can read and understand. The ombud says that many consumers who are not fluent in English don’t know about this right and therefore do not request documents in their language of choice.

6. 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, or by ordinary mail, or fax, or email, or printable web-page.

You can contact the office of the Credit Ombud for free help if you have any issues relating to credit agreements with non-bank credit providers, or if you have a complaint about a credit bureau listing. Phone 0861 66 28 37, email [email protected], or send an SMS to 44786.