Credit. Picture: ISTOCK
Credit. Picture: ISTOCK

There has been a spike in the number of cases opened by the credit ombud in the first three months of 2018.

This is explained by the weak economy, increased public awareness of the office and consumers seeking to clear their credit records to make large purchases ahead of April’s value-added tax (VAT) increase effective on April 1, says credit ombudsman Nicky Lala Mohan. The credit ombud recorded a 40% year-on-year increase in the number of cases opened in the first quarter of 2018, Lala Mohan said on Friday, on the sidelines of the release of the credit ombud’s annual report.

SA has 25.3-million credit-active consumers, according to credit bureau data. There were more than 79-million credit-active accounts at the end of December, 19.84-million of which were not in good standing, according to the National Credit Regulator.

Consumer-initiated inquiries on credit records increased 22% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2017 to nearly 24-million.

The number one cause for complaints in 2017 was incorrect credit information, such as mistaken default listings or inaccurate credit history, Lala Mohan said. Failure by credit providers and debt collectors to provide statements of account, to hide unlawful fees, was another common complaint.

The ombudsman received more than 18,000 complaints and inquiries in 2017, a 26% increase on the previous year.

Disputes opened numbered 4,508 (+9.34%), with 4,662 disputes closed (+5,43%) — two-thirds in favour of consumers.