Read contracts very carefully
CONSUMERS have a responsibility to read their credit contracts before signing them because it is hard to get out of a contract.
Credit ombudsman Manie van Schalkwyk told Sowetan yesterday that consumers need to study contracts very carefully.
"People do not read their contracts at all. They are more concerned about getting the product that they want. Only when the trouble starts, do people start reading what they should have read in the first place," Van Schalkwyk said.
He said there was also a language barrier so people who can not read English should ask for assistance.
"You have a right to ask that the contract be read in your vernacular. People feel inadequate and are reluctant to ask. We should overcome that. I would rather feel embarrassed for five minutes than pay the price for much longer," he said.
"Credit providers must give consumers a quote, which is valid for five days. Consumers must use the five days to shop around and understand what they are getting themselves into," the ombudsman said.
He added that consumers need to understand that when they sign a contract, it means that they agree with all its terms and conditions.
"If you do not know what you agreed to and you want to exercise your right after you have signed the contract, that contract will stand," he said.
"If you understand how important it is to put your signature on a document, then I think you will understand how difficult it is to prove the contrary. If you sign it, it means you understand it," the ombudsman said.
This week Van Schalkwyk released a report in which he had resolved 40% more cases last year than in 2010.
An interesting finding in his report stated that debt counsellors closed shop without informing consumers.
"We will take this up with the National Credit Regulator. When debt counsellors want to get rid of their books or they want to get out of the industry, this must be clearly communicated to consumers so that consumers know what to do and who to contact in the future," he said.
Van Schalkwyk said that consumers wrongfully believe that just because they had found a debt counsellor, all their problems would be solved.
"They should stay involved in the process. A debt counsellor is an agent for the consumer. The consumer is employing the debt counsellor's services. They must follow up to see if the debt counsellor had done what he or she is supposed to have done," the ombudsman said. - email@example.com