In keeping with this year’s theme of Women’s month, which is “Women United in Moving South Africa Forward”, the office of the Credit Ombud is doing its part on a daily basis to assist women to become financially independent and stronger.
Credit Ombud, Nicky Lala Mohan stated: “We take note of women’s participation in the economy. Women make up 52% of all South Africans, and 43% of the economically active population. Traditionally female responsibilities were focused on family and its wellbeing, resulting in women shying away from money matters, leaving that responsibility to their husbands. However, society has changed, resulting in more than 40% of South African households being headed by women, thus making it vital for women to be able to actively manage their own finances. It is unfortunate that in some instances women are not as financially healthy as they could be.”
A typical example of the types of complaints that the office of the Credit Ombud deals with daily, is the following matter:
*Phumzile Musina, is a single woman, retiring from her job in the government sector next year. Although she earned a reasonable salary she found herself struggling to make ends meet as she was the sole bread winner in her family which consisted of her parents and her adult son all of whom suffered medical conditions. Within the period of seven months Phumzile took five loans with one credit provider to the value of R76 000. She was desperate to cover her expenses. However, she was unable to pay regularly and soon found herself in trouble with the credit provider. She contacted our office for assistance. Through the intervention of the Credit Ombud office it was found that Phumzile was over-indebted and could not afford to pay the loans. Greater consideration should have been given to her expenses when conducting the required affordability assessments, as per the requirements of the NCA. She further submitted a motivation regarding her personal circumstances. The credit provider wrote off the five loans to the value of R140 554.63.
Women are renowned for opening numerous clothing and store accounts, often to their own detriment as it then becomes very easy to over spend and make purchases which are unnecessary. However, the Credit Ombud office had come across a case were the woman being accused of opening numerous accounts, was completely innocent.
In the matter of *Lillian Sefako, the complainant became aware that someone was committing fraud against her name when she started receiving threatening phone calls from credit providers, requesting payment on accounts. She informed them that she was not aware of these accounts. Some of the creditors believed her and told her what they required in order for them to resolve the matters on their side. The complainant also went to the police station to open a fraud docket. Afterwards she sent the relevant information to all the different creditors. Unfortunately, she was not assisted by all the creditors. She requested a copy of her credit report was shocked to note that there were even more creditors she never had any dealings with. She then made contact with our office for further assistance. We made contact with the various creditors and all the matters were resolved as we could prove to the various companies that from the ID documents, signatures and bank statements, it was clear that it was not the complainant who applied for the accounts. We saved the complainant R22 639 as she did not have to pay these accounts.
According to the 2014 annual results released, 47% of the complaints lodged at the office of the Credit Ombud were received from women, and the current year to date results show a similar trend.
“It seems women are becoming more aware of our office and are using our services, requesting assistance with disputes ranging from credit bureau listings, non-bank credit and emolument attachment orders,” says Lala Mohan.
Women have always been at the forefront of change in our country and in order to continue to bring about change and help move South Africa forward, Credit Ombud, Nicky Lala Mohan recommends the following to assist women to improve their financial and credit status:
- Always check your statements to make sure that all your payments are reflected and keep track of your balance;
- Ensure that you always pay your accounts on or before the due date, in order to avoid late payment penalties and listings at the credit bureaus;
- If for any reason you are unable to pay for your accounts, talk to your credit provider to make alternate arrangements. Missing payments will negatively reflect on your profile.
- Make certain that you always get all agreements for payment arrangements in writing as you would need this as proof of the arrangement.
Woman who are credit active and who find that they have a dispute with regard to any of their credit agreements or with regard to the information appearing on their credit report, may contact the Credit Ombud for FREE assistance at any time. We also assist with complaints relating to garnishee orders (emolument attachment orders) as a result of an unpaid credit agreement.
* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.