From June 1 you might get a clean slate, writes Isaac Moledi

Sipho Makhuru* discovered that he had been blacklisted on one of the country's credit bureaus for owing R296 to one of the biggest private hospitals in Johannesburg.

Sipho Makhuru* discovered that he had been blacklisted on one of the country's credit bureaus for owing R296 to one of the biggest private hospitals in Johannesburg.

Makhuru had never used his medical aid to visit the hospital, but his wife had. On discovering this, he made arrangements with the hospital to settle the debt.

A month after settling the debt, Makhuru went to a local hardware shop to open an account to buy building material.

His application was declined. The bank, which funds the facility, referred him to his blacklisting.

Despite submitting a letter from the hospital's legal department clearing him of the debt, the bank continued to decline his application, saying Makhuru must wait for another 12 months for his negative information to disappear from the credit bureau.

But there is hope for frustrated consumers like Makhuru as we approach the final implementation of the National Credit Act on June 1.

Section 73 of the NCA makes provision for specific information to be removed from the credit bureaus by June 1.

Manie van Schalkwyk, the credit information ombudsman, says on a daily basis, his organisation deals with consumers who are not clear about what to do with their credit problems.

Schalkwyk adds that these consumers are also in the dark as to what specific information will be removed from the credit bureaus on June 1.

He sheds some light on what information will be removed in terms of Section 73 of the National Credit Act.

l Adverse credit information in respect of debt of less than R500.

This means that all negative listings in respect of smaller debt will be automatically removed and consumers do not have to apply or contact a credit bureau for the removal of this information.

l Accounts that were dormant for longer than 24 months on September 1 2006, unless any enforcement action has been taken by the credit grantor.

This means if you have not paid an outstanding debt for a period of 24 months by September 1, and the credit grantor has not handed the account over to attorneys for collection or to take a judgment, then all the information relating to this account will be removed by June 1.

Judgment information that credit bureaus receive from the courts will be removed in the following circumstances:

l All judgment information in respect of a debt of up to R500 - unless you have more than two unpaid judgments on your credit record. It is not a prerequisite that the debt must have been paid.

l In respect of a debt of up to R5 000, if the judgment is older than 18 months by September 1 2006 - unless you have more than two unpaid judgments on your credit record.

Van Schalkwyk stresses, however, that even if the judgment information is removed from the credit bureaus, consumers still have an obligation to repay the outstanding debt to the credit grantor.

He says the credit grantor can still exercise his rights by, for example, repossessing furniture or garnishing the consumer's salary.

l In respect of a debt of up to R50 000, if the full amount was paid in full by September 1 2006.

l In respect of a debt of up to R50 000 reflecting on the consumer's credit record on September 1 2006, if the full amount was paid by the consumer between September 1 2006 and September 1 2007.

"This is a big concession for consumers as it means that any judgment under R50000, which has been paid and will be paid until September 1, will not be displayed on the credit bureaus for a period of five years, but will be removed immediately from the credit bureaus."

Van Schalkwyk says consumers should see this as an opportunity to pay the outstanding debt, urging them to check their credit record at the credit bureaus regularly in order to identify information that has been listed incorrectly and unfairly.

If there is information on the credit bureaus that you want to dispute, contact the office of the Credit Information Ombud on 086-166-2837 or ombud@creditombud.org.za.

* Not his real name

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