You have a right to receive statements

Credit providers must abide by law

When you enter into a credit agreement, you enjoy important consumer rights, including the right to receive a regular statement of account from your credit provider. 

A case before the credit ombud illustrates the importance of receiving a statement of account and a paid-up letter. Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV
A case before the credit ombud illustrates the importance of receiving a statement of account and a paid-up letter. Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV 

When you enter into a credit agreement, you enjoy important consumer rights, including the right to receive a regular statement of account from your credit provider. 

A statement of account provides you with a record of payments made by you as per the agreement. If you aren’t getting regular statements, your creditor may be in breach of the law. 

In terms of the National Credit Act (NCA), credit providers “must” deliver periodic statements. 

In respect of home loans, a credit provider must furnish statements every six months; on secured loans, instalment agreements and lease agreements, a credit provider must issue you with a statement every two months; and for all other credit agreements, you must receive a statement every month. 

A recent media release by the Credit Ombud’s office tells of a consumer who lodged a dispute relating to a credit agreement signed in 2003. The consumer claimed that no statement of account was issued by the credit provider and that the account was eventually closed. 

But in October last year, the consumer began receiving SMSes demanding payment for purchases made on the account. The consumer disputed having made the purchases, alleging they were fraudulent. 

After obtaining a response from the credit provider, including a comprehensive statement of account, the ombud established that the consumer had paid the debt in full but the credit provider had failed to issue a “paid-up” letter to the consumer. 

The account had remained active and been incurring monthly charges when a fraudster made purchases on it.

After the ombud intervened, the credit provider duly wrote off the balance on the account and gave the consumer a paid-up letter.

The ombud says the case illustrates the importance of receiving a statement of account and a paid-up letter. 

Debt counsellor Renee Marais says it’s common for credit providers to stop issuing statements to consumers when they go under debt review.

This is a breach of contract and the withholding of statements denies you, the consumer, the right of access to information pertaining to your debt, she says. 

When consumers in debt review ask their creditors for statements, Marais says they’re told their debt counsellor must ask for them. But she says that when you go into debt review, your debt counsellor doesn’t become your administrator to act on your behalf. 

You have a contractual relationship with your credit provider. And debt review does not amend that contract, she says. 

The failure or refusal to provide statements to consumers in debt review also constitutes “unconscionable conduct” in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, Marais says. 

Regulators should put a stop to this practice, urgently, she says.

If you want to dispute a debit or credit on your statement of account or have a question relating to an outstanding balance due to interest or charges, first approach your credit provider, the Credit Ombud says. 

Give your credit provider no fewer than 20 working days to resolve the matter. If the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction, you can complain to the office of the Credit Ombud. 

The ombud deals with complaints relating to over-charging of interest, hand-over amounts, duplicate collections, fraud, and other issues relating to credit agreements.

To lodge a dispute with the Credit Ombud, phone 0861 662 837; send an SMS to 44786 (free of charge); email ombud@creditombud.org.za, or submit your complaint online at www.creditombud.org,za.

X