Fewer than 5% of South African consumers make use of the legislation which entitles them to obtain their credit report free of charge from every credit bureau every year.
Figures supplied by the National Credit Regulator revealed that in 2014, only around one million of the 22,8million credit active consumers in the country took up their right to access their free credit report.
Many people only check their credit reports when it is too late – for example after the credit they applied for in order to buy a house or a car has been turned down. Often, they cannot understand why this is so, particularly if they have ensured that they live within their means, don’t have too much debt and pay the full amount due on their accounts in full and on time every month.
Although the decision whether or not to grant credit does not lie with the credit bureau which compiles the credit report, this report is used by credit providers – banks, retail stores, cellphone companies and so on - when a consumer applies for credit or to open an account.
The credit provider uses the information in the credit report to score the applicant’s creditworthiness and decide, based on their own criteria, whether or not to grant the credit applied for, or whether to grant a lesser amount – and at what interest rate.
Regular examination of one’s credit report will enable consumers to check that all the information in it is accurate. Sometimes there could be errors or areas of dispute. For example, there were 22 822 disputes lodged about information held on consumer credit records for the quarter ended December 2014.
These disputes may have been no more serious that an error in name or address; but some could well have involved a far more serious issue such as inaccurate reflection of payments made.
A regular examination of one’s credit report could also provide timely warning to consumers that they might have been the victim of identity theft with the identity thieves running up enormous debt in their name.
Anyone who obtains their free credit report and has concerns about possible errors or discrepancies can contact the credit bureau that issued the report and lodge a dispute.
They should then provide the credit bureau with as much supporting documentation as possible – receipts or other evidence of payment. The bureau will investigate and respond to the consumer with the outcome within 21 working days.
Anyone can obtain their free TransUnion report directly from TransUnion