According to the Credit Ombudsman’s 2016 annual report, the organisation has clawed back more than R10.7 million (an increase of 40.2%) to return to consumers’ pockets.
This is an achievement that the new Credit Ombud, Nicky Lala-Mohan, is most proud of.
“This amount is calculated by adding all the amounts where consumers had overpaid, or where we found some breach of the law that entitled the consumer to a refund or recalculation of their amounts owed.
"Most of the amounts are relatively small, which makes the total amount that much more remarkable,” he said.
The annual report also showed that there was a substantial increase in the calls fielded by its call centre – 32 095 to be exact, which is an increase of 32.35%.
The total complaints and enquiries recorded rose by 16.5% to 14 343 for the period, while disputes opened for investigation amounted to 4 123 for the year, a small decrease of 8.8% compared with 2015.
The ombud closed 4 422 disputes, a decrease of 12.8%.
“The office has not found any particular factor responsible for the slight drop in complaints and can only speculate that some credit providers and the credit bureaus are resolving consumers’ disputes more effectively, so there is no need to escalate the matter to our office,” said Lala-Mohan.
The most common non-bank credit cases that were disputed included consumers’ incorrect statements of account, emolument attachment orders, fraud cases and alleged reckless lending cases.
Many cases resulted in balances being written off, refunds being facilitated or consumers being helped to enter into payment arrangements.
Some of the most common disputes relating to credit information cases include insufficient or incomplete credit information at the credit bureaus, outdated credit information, as well as credit grantors not supplying accurate information.
The office resolved 69.4% of the disputes in consumers’ favour, meaning that consumers’ complaints were mostly fully or partially upheld.
The introduction of the ombud’s SMS number – 44786 – in 2015 has also helped impoverished consumers.
Once an SMS is sent, call centre staff contact the consumer to discuss their complaint or enquiry.
“One of the main reasons for the introduction of this project was the realisation that many of our consumers do not even have enough money to buy airtime to contact us.
"It often takes quite some time for a consumer to explain the background and facts of a credit dispute to us, and that could be costly.
"If a consumer makes use of the SMS message service, the office will respond by phoning the consumer, and we save the consumer the cost of the call,” said Lala-Mohan.
How can the credit ombud help you?
The Office of the Credit Ombudsman resolves complaints by consumers and businesses that are negatively affected by credit bureau information, or when a consumer has a dispute with a credit provider other than a bank.
The office used to assist consumers with debt counselling complaints, but, since 2013, all these complaints must be referred to the National Credit Regulator, which can be contacted on 0860 627 627 or 011 554 2600.
Alternatively, email email@example.com.
If you have a complaint concerning your bank, that would be handled by the Ombudsman for Banking Services, which can be contacted on 011 712 1800 or by lodging a complaint on obssa.co.za.
The ombud service is free and the only requirements that must be met are:
. That the complaint is within the jurisdiction of the office;
. That the complainant follows the complaint process as stipulated; and
. That the complainant signs and agrees to the terms and conditions/rules and undertakings accompanying the complaint form.
If you have a dispute with your credit provider or bureau, you must first try to resolve the issue yourself.
If you are still unhappy, or don’t get a response to your complaint within 20 working days, you can approach the ombud.
Simply send an SMS to 44786 to get a consultant to call you back, or you can call 0861 66 2837.
Alternatively, complete a complaint form online at creditombud.org.za.
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