Know your consumer rights

15 March 2018

With less than 24 hours left to mark World Consumer Rights Day, the National Credit Regulator (NCR) has dispensed sage advice for consumers.

Commemorated annually on 15 March, this year’s World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) will be commemorated under the theme ‘Making digital marketplaces fairer’.

“In line with the 2018 international theme, consumers should not make any upfront payment to credit providers when applying for a loan. It is unlawful for credit providers to charge consumers any upfront fees,” said NCR Deputy Chief Executive Officer Obed Tongoane on Wednesday.

An upfront fee is a payment that some credit providers charge consumers before granting them loans.

Tongoane urged consumers, who have paid an upfront fee to a fake credit provider, to open a criminal case at the police.

In terms of the National Credit Act (NCA), all credit providers must register with the NCR before granting credit to consumers.

The NCR, which is an entity of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), said it is regrettable that some credit providers or sometimes ‘fake’ credit providers, who operate online, cheat unsuspecting consumers of their hard earned money.

“Consumers should be weary of this, as most fake credit providers who operate online charge consumers this fee. Consumers will not be able to get their money back as most of these credit providers are fake and therefore, do not exist in the real world,” he said.

Debt counselling

The NCR appealed to consumers not think of debt counselling as a savings mechanism.

“Consumers should take note that debt counselling is not a savings mechanism, as it is made out to be by some debt counsellors, who promise consumers savings of up to 60% of their monthly instalments.”

Rather, debt counselling is a debt relief measure for over-indebted consumers created so that they can pay all their credit providers with their current income and also be able to afford their living expenses such as food, transport and school fees, among others.

While undergoing debt counselling, consumers will not lose their assets as long as they continue paying their debts off.

Tongoane said consumers who receive calls from debt counsellors and debt counselling companies promising them savings on their monthly instalments, as well breaks from their monthly instalments or anything that is too good to be true, should know that it probably is.

Tongoane warned consumers against giving their identity numbers and banking details to debt councillors and their call centre agents telephonically.

“Remember, you cannot be placed under debt counselling without your consent and without an identity number.”

Consumers who feel that they have been placed under debt counselling without their consent should contact the regulator for assistance.

Raising awareness

According to Consumers International, WCRD is celebrated as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights and needs.

WCRD was inspired by President John F Kennedy, who sent a message to US Congress on 15 March 1962, in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights.

According to the membership organisation for consumer groups around the world, Kennedy was the first world leader to do so. The day was first marked in1983. – SAnews.gov.za

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