PAYING off an account should mean it is closed. But this is not the case in the eyes of some service providers.

PAYING off an account should mean it is closed. But this is not the case in the eyes of some service providers.

You should always check whether unexplained charges are levied on your account, since this could result in your creditworthiness being tainted when it should not.

Then, again, service providers charge their clients' accounts but then fail to provide the service, which amounts to robbery.

Some consumers pay these charges to avoid negative listings and some who resist have ended up with a dent in their creditworthiness. But this will soon be a thing of the past.

Credit ombudsman Manie van Schalkwyk is now looking into the accounts of people who have been listed incorrectly.

Take the case of Nondumiso Mthembu, who paid off her Spitz account in 2008 and has been harassed for payment until now.

Her "sin" was not to tell the bank to cancel her account, which she had paid up fully.

"My understanding was that once I had paid the last cent I would not be billed. But they keep on billing me," she says.

Mthembu continued to pay this account to avoid being blacklisted when it should have been closed.

Two weeks ago she learnt that she should have told the bank to close the account. Her failure to do so had resulted in her account being billed R5 every month.

She was also told she had accepted this condition when she signed her contract with them.

She believed that the process involved in getting to see a copy of her contract was time-consuming, so she paid the amount demanded.

The office of the credit ombudsman can now intervene to ensure that consumers are no longer erroneously billed.

This means service providers can no longer hide behind systems errors when handling clients' accounts, resulting in consumers having bad credit records that are unwarranted.

Barely three months after the jurisdiction of the credit ombudsman was extended to include complaints relating to credit transactions, they have yielded excellent results.

Now the ombudsman's office can focus on complaints from consumers about negative information held at credit bureaux.

Take the case of Richard Ntombela, whose clothing account was fully paid up. But because of a system error he continued to receive requests from his credit provider for payment.

Ntombela then went to the store where the store manager faxed proof of payment to head office.

But Ntombela continued to receive calls claiming he had not paid. Head office still claimed his account was in arrears and refused to close the account.

It was only after he took the matter to the credit ombudsman that he found relief.

The credit ombudsman discovered that a system error was responsible for the problems. The technical error was rectified and Ntombela's account was closed.

The credit ombudsman will also ensure clothing stores do not arbitrarily demand money for unsolicited services they fail to provide to their customers.

The credit ombudsman offers a free of charge service. Complaints can be lodged by contacting the ombudsman's office on 0861 66 2837; www.creditombud.org.za.

l For general credit-related information contactombud@creditombud.org.za