You probably know that when you apply for credit at any registered financial services provider they will check your credit record. If they find a blacklisting – which is a record of your failure to pay a debt – you will not be granted any further credit. But most people don’t know the extent of the detail in their credit records and what it all means. To help you understand, here is a breakdown of the different sections of a credit record and the information contained in each of them.

Who can view my credit record?

When you fill out an application for credit, you are automatically giving permission for your credit record to be checked. Any institution to which you have applied for credit can run a credit check against your name.

You are also entitled to run a free credit check on yourself once a year to make sure that your record is clear. You can do this through any credit bureau, including Compuscan, Transunion and Experian.

What is contained in my credit record?

Your credit record is divided up into three sections that contain specific information. The first time that people see their credit records they are usually surprised by how detailed they are. Credit records don’t only record blacklisting’s but personal information, late payments and amounts owing as well. The three sections are:

Section A:
This section confirms your personal information such as your name, surname, marital status, number of dependants and employment history.

Section B:
This is called the summary of the report, and contains any listings against your name. These are either defaults, which are late payments that have been handed over to lawyers for collections, or judgements, which are records of when legal action has been taken at the courts against you because of a bad debt.

Defaults stay on your credit record for a maximum of one to two years. Judgements remain on your record for five years, but must be removed if you have paid the debt back in full.

Section B also contains a listing of whether you own any properties and a record of any trace alerts, which is when a previous creditor requests information on your whereabouts from any new creditors to whom you have applied for credit.

Section C:
This section contains all the information about your current debts – the balance on each account or loan, what monthly instalment is due and whether you have missed any payments or are slow to pay.

Why should I check my credit record every year?

Even if you have no intention of applying for credit it is a good idea to check your credit record once a year (for free) because some unscrupulous credit providers blacklist late payers without going through the proper procedures, which include informing you of their actions. In other instances, fraudulent applicants use other people’s names and personal information to apply for credit and then default on the repayments, resulting in a blacklisting.

Under the National Credit Act, you are entitled to challenge and request proof of the accuracy of the information that a credit bureau holds. If they are not able to provide that proof, you are entitled to insist that the listing against your name be removed.

Your credit record is your business

The National Credit Act has made it easy for consumers to gain access to information about themselves that may prevent organisations from granting them credit. By making it your business to know what’s in your credit record, you are taking responsibility for your financial situation and making sure that there are no nasty surprises in your future.

Where to go for help

The Office of the Credit Ombud resolves complaints from consumers and businesses that are negatively impacted by credit bureau information or when a consumer has a dispute with a credit provider, debt counsellor or payment distribution agent.

Contact details:
Tel: 0861 ombuds or 0861 662 837
Email: ombud@creditombud.org.za
Website: www.creditombud.org.za