Every week I receive emails from people who have lost their jobs and are desperately seeking employment, but keep getting told they would have got a position but for negative listings on their credit records.
Mr Khoza is a typical case: “I would just like to know what I can do to get a job, as creditors have listed me on ITC, and I don’t have a job any more to pay off my debts,” he wrote in an email to Consumer Watch last week.
“Will they ever remove my name so that I can get a decent job and start paying off my debts again? Please advise me of a solution, because I’ve been attending interviews but the problem is my bureau listings. I believe that I have learnt from my past mistakes and I’m a responsible citizen.
“Please advise as I’m losing hope now? it’s now the fourth month that I’m sitting at home without a job.”
Credit bureau information is intended to give credit providers an indication of your ability to meet your financial commitments; it’s not meant to affect your chances of getting a job.
In 2007, when the National Credit Act came into effect, the Credit Information Ombud – now known as the Credit Ombud – put out a press release on this issue, headed Negative listing can’t be used to deny employment.
It said: “Despite a good CV and good references from previous employers, quite a few potential employers might tell a person that because he or she is blacklisted they would not be able to hire them.”
It quoted Credit Ombud Manie van Schalkwyk as saying: “According to the National Credit Act which came into effect on June 1 2007, information on a consumer’s credit report at the credit bureau cannot be used as a basis of denying employment to the consumer.
“The only time this information can be used for such purpose is when considering the candidate for employment in a position that requires trust, honesty and entails the handling of cash or finances.
“Even so, this must be done with the full consent of the candidate prior to the report being requested from the credit bureau.”
Three years on, it appears the practice of denying suitable candidates a job solely because of their credit record is still rife.
And with 8.4 million South Africans being either “blacklisted” on a credit bureau or at least four months behind on their repayments, that’s a lot of potential prejudice.
And here’s another legal requirement which often gets overlooked: a credit provider is compelled to give consumers 20 working days’ notice of its intention to negatively list them on the credit bureau.
“If credit providers did not follow the right procedures as stipulated in the regulations, the blacklisted consumer can dispute the blacklisting, which may be deemed invalid by results of investigation by dispute resolution bodies like the Credit Ombud,” Van Schalkwyk said.
Everyone’s entitled to a free credit report from the credit bureau once a year, and it’s a really good idea to take advantage of this.
If you find a negative listing you feel is unfair, you should bring this to the attention of the credit bureau in question.
If they fail to resolve the problem, you can contact the Credit Ombud’s office on 0861 66 2837
For general enquiries on credit matters, the office can be contacted via e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org