Today credit reports are very important when determining one’s credibility. Credit reports contain the details about a person’s history of paying bills, criminal records, whether one has filed for bankruptcy before, where one lives and many other intricate details about a person. An individual’s credibility is crucial when it comes to getting a job, buying a house, getting a credit card, insurance, or transacting other businesses. Seeing how many facets of life are affected by this document, it’s important that the credit reports are accurate and that one has the right to dispute errors on credit reports.

Credit reports are made by credit bureaus after gathering the information from multiple sources. South Africa has 11 credit bureaus. The major credit bureaus are Transunion ITC, Experian, XDS and Compuscan. The National Credit Act is a body that was created to help protect the privacy of an individual’s credit information in South Africa. The NCA also requires all the credit bureaus to be registered with the National Credit Regulator. These bodies help to protect the rights of individuals by protecting their records and ensuring that correct information is presented in the records.

The National Credit Act stipulates that all credit bureaus should provide credit reports free of charge once annually. If you need an extra report, you have to pay for it and the price varies across the credit bureaus. The NCA has however put a limit of R22.80 for a report across all the national credit bureaus. If you detect an error on a credit report from one bureau you should also check with the other top bureaus as the error may be spread across. If you detect an anomaly, you reserve the right to dispute the error. The best approach is to place the dispute with the credit bureau from whose report you detected the error. Placing disputes online is a fast and convenient way to do this. You can also call the bureau directly or you can send the dispute via mail.

When placing a dispute, one will need to have all the necessary documents that support the claims. It is also important that one makes sure that the dispute is valid. One rule is that one cannot dispute reports that are older than three months. When one logs a dispute, a reference number is provided to help trail the process. One should always keep this number and should also keep a proper paper trail for the whole process including telephone calls. It is also wise to avoid applying for any credit until the whole process is resolved.

In principle, one can dispute anything; entries that are out of date, inaccurate, incomplete, or entries that cannot be verified. The credit bureau will then proceed to investigate the claims and delete any wrong entries or include omitted details. Some of the common items that are disputed are payments that are reported as late payments but which were paid for in time. Others are included accounts that are not the owners, inaccurate account balances, inaccurate account status, inaccurate creditors, and inaccurate credit limits.

When making a complaint one will need to also submit sufficient proof to back up the dispute. For example if one has a complaint about a wrongly entered name, address, date of birth, or such, one can send copies of their national documents to help in clearing the issue faster. If it is a complaint about a cheque or a bill one can send a copy of the cheque or bill to show the correct facts. For the sake of future references do not send the original copies but make duplicates and safely store the originals.

The time it takes to resolve a credit report dispute varies. Disputes placed via mail will definitely take longer. The credit bureaus in South Africa have a period of 20 working days to investigate and respond to any dispute. If the dispute was legitimate and proves to be correct, the original sender of the information will be notified. The original informant is then required to also investigate and get back to the credit bureau with the actual facts. If the informant does not however respond in the required time, the credit bureau will go ahead and delete the information from the credit report. After their investigations, the credit bureau replies to the complainant in writing. The bureau will also provide a free copy of the updated credit report if there was any change. If corrections were made, one can ask the credit bureau to send a correction notice to all persons or companies that accessed the erroneous credit report.

In case one is still not satisfied by the investigations of the credit bureau, one can contact the Credit Information Ombud. This is an organisation that helps individuals and companies to resolve conflicts within the credit industry. The final step one can take if all fails in disputing errors on credit reports is to go to the National Credit Regulator for help.

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