As today’s consumers become increasingly credit savvy there is a heightened interest in how one goes about improving or repairing an unhealthy or incorrect credit record. Unfortunately, many consumers are unaware of the correct process to follow and thus find themselves susceptible to disreputable businesses who proclaim to offer assistance in this regard.

While there are reputable debt repair agencies who can assist in providing consumers with advice or the rescindment of a judgment, there are also a vast number of businesses that hold themselves out to be debt repair or credit repair agents and charge a fee for assisting a consumer to update their credit record at a credit bureau. These agents frequently either (i) promise to remove information from a consumer’s profile which may not be removed or (ii) charge fees for updating a consumer’s profile, a service which is offered free of charge by a credit bureau. Neither the National Credit Act (NCA) nor other legislation regulates these agents and it has been reported that some require upfront payment and then disappear without assisting the consumer, leaving the consumer out of pocket.

In terms of the NCA, credit bureaus have a duty to assist consumers free of charge to update their credit profile should it contain inaccurate information. In this regard a consumer can either log a dispute (where the information on the consumer’s profile does not belong to the consumer) or a query (where the information is outdated or incorrect) and the bureau must resolve the issue within 20 business days.

Note that if the information on the consumer’s profile is correct, the NCA requires that the information be retained on the consumer’s profile for the prescribed period and it cannot be removed prior to the lapsing of the retention date. This means that, for example, if a consumer has a judgment against their name, that judgment (regardless of whether it has been paid up or not) will remain on the consumer’s profile for the prescribed period of five years. Thus, a consumer cannot pay an agent to have this information cleared. The only way to remove the judgment from the consumer’s profile is to have the judgment rescinded. Should a consumer wish to go this route there are various reputable debt repair or credit repair agencies that offer this service at a reasonable fee.

Just as they can assist with the rescindment of a judgment, there are other instances where there is value for consumers in using a debt or credit repair agent. Another such instance is where the agent acts in an advisory role and assists the consumer with the debt counselling process.

Compuscan therefore recommends that should a consumer have a dispute or enquiry regarding their credit report that they contact Compuscan’s consumer care department on 0861 51 41 31 or alternatively makes use of a reputable debt repair company for assistance.

About the Writer: Annelene Dippenaar is an admitted attorney, practicing since 2006. She has advised various clients, including registered banks, credit providers and other listed companies on the National Credit Act 34 of 2005. Since 2010 she has been employed by Compuscan, a registered credit bureau, as legal advisor and compliance officer. Annelene obtained a BA. (Law), LLB and LLM at the University of Stellenbosch and is currently writing her doctors thesis.

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