World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) was established in 1983 to promote the basic rights of consumers everywhere. Every year on 15 March, the global consumer movement unites around a common theme to perform an exciting array of campaigning activities. WCRD is an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, to demand that those rights are respected and protected, and to protest the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them. The Credit Ombud –tasked with dispute resolution and enforcing fairness in the credit industry – is one of the bodies in South Africa which continues to play a significant role in the South African credit landscape when it comes to consumer rights in relation to credit. Mr Nicky Lala-Mohan, the Credit Ombud explains that The Ombud assists consumers to know about and exercise their credit rights and provides free assistance with all credit bureau and credit agreement related matters.

Many consumers phone or write to the Credit Ombud complaining about their unresolved disputes pertaining to credit bureau information and credit agreement related matters and they will receive assistance free of charge. In some instances the complaints pertain to the rights of the consumers being undermined.

 Lala-Mohan explained that many consumers are not aware of their credit rights, which is an important element of their human rights.

To illustrate the issues facing consumers, the Credit Ombud’s office investigated the complaint detailed below pertaining to one of the consumer rights – the right to receive documents. Consumers should be aware that in terms of the National Credit Act, 2005 a consumer has a right to receive a statement of account. The credit provider is obliged to deliver a statement of account to the consumer, in the manner chosen, either by fax, email, post or printable web-page. Furthermore, the consumer has a right to dispute any transaction with the credit provider, in particular a debit or credit, appearing on the statement of account.

Nomeko Thilizi* lodged a complaint with the Credit Ombud requesting that we check whether the interest charged by the credit provider was calculated correctly.

To support his request, the consumer pointed out that he took a R3000 loan over 6 months. After successfully paying three instalments, he lost his job and had immediately notified the credit provider. He also requested a settlement balance.  He was furnished with a settlement balance of R543.26 which he paid on 29 July 2015 via cell phone banking, two days prior to the due date of 31 July 2015.  When the consumer received his final statement of account, he noticed that the payment made by him was not reflecting thereon. To make matters worse, he was subsequently harassed telephonically to pay an alleged outstanding amount which now included additional interest being debited to the account.  The credit provider was adamant that the payment had not been received. 

During the course of our investigation we gathered all the facts pertaining to the case. We requested the consumer to submit proof of his payment which our office then forwarded to the credit provider.  We also requested the credit provider to furnish us with a comprehensive statement of account.  Upon receipt of the statement of account, our office scrutinized all payments received and noted that notwithstanding the consumer’s payment  on 29 July 2015, the amount was only credited to the account by the credit provider  on 17 August 2015,  by which time interest and costs had accrued.  We also found that the initiation fee that the credit provider charge, was inflated and not in accordance with the prescriptions of the National Credit Act.  These discrepancies were brought to the credit provider’s attention.  There were numerous letters and telephone calls between the Credit Ombud and the attorneys representing the credit provider, but eventually  they had to concede  to have the balance written off, the account closed and a paid up letter furnished to the consumer. 

*not the consumer’s real name

“The National Credit Act 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,” Lala-Mohan said.

15 March is World Consumer Rights Day and the Office of the Credit Ombud is playing its part in bringing awareness to consumers in the different provinces to assist them in knowing and exercising their rights and where to complain should they be treated unfairly.

The Act also introduced a number of important consumer rights. These include:

  • Right to 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.
  • Protection against discrimination in respect of credit – A credit provider must not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against a person applying for credit.
  • Right to reasons for credit being refused – On request from a consumer, a credit provider must advise a consumer, in writing, about 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. Too few consumers know about this right to make use of it when they are denied credit. In most instances where consumers are declined credit they immediately think it is a case of ‘blacklisting’ which is not always the case.
  • Right to information in an official language – A consumer has a right to receive any document that is required in terms of the National Credit Act (NCA) in an official language that the consumer reads or understands e.g. Consumers who are not fluent in English could exercise this right, but unfortunately many don’t know about it and therefore they do not request the translated documents in their chosen language.
  • 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 web-page.

Right to access and challenge credit records and information – When a consumer requests a credit report, the report must disclose the same information that will be displayed to other parties when such report is provided. If the accuracy of the consumer credit information has been challenged by a consumer, the person whom the challenge has been made must take the steps set out in the National Credit Act within 20 business days after the filing of the challenge to provide a copy of credible evidence to the person who filed the challenge or remove the information and all records of it from its files.

Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud for FREE assistance if they experience any issues relating to credit agreements with non-bank credit providers such as the clothing and furniture retailers as well as micro-lenders, fraudulent listings, emolument attachment orders (“garnishee orders”) or general complaints about their credit bureaux listings. The office can be contacted on 0861 66 28 37; on the website; email us at or send a sms to 44786 and we will call you.




If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Salem Dyafta , Public Relations Manager at 0792243802 or email at