MONEY CLINIC | I cancelled my phone contract, but it still shows as active debt. What can I do?

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Your credit score in South Africa is one of the most important numbers in your life.
Your credit score in South Africa is one of the most important numbers in your life.
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A Fin24 reader looking to buy a house found that a cellphone contract that she's terminated was still reflecting as active, negatively affecting her credit score. 

She writes:

I had an account with a cellular service provider that I terminated at the end of the contract term a few years ago. I checked my credit score earlier this year, and it turned out that my account/contract was still reflecting as active and in arrears. I called the service provider.

I was told to pay an amount immediately that it would take 21 working days to remove my listing. Months have passed, and the account is still active, and the listing hasn't been removed yet.

I've tried to contact the service provider to no avail. I'm trying to buy a house, and the listing is affecting my credit score.

Fin24 asked two experts for their advice:

Lubabalo Silayi, registered debt counsellor at National Debt Advisors responds: 

You are completely entitled to feel anxious about what is listed on your profile at the credit bureaus, as well as what your credit score is, as this is a huge part of the criteria lenders use to assess your risk for credit. I would advise you to submit your "paper trail" and proof of communication wherein the service provider promised you that it would take 21 days to remove the listing, to the relevant credit bureaus where you are listed. It is possible to be listed at one credit bureau but not the other.

Lodge an official dispute with the credit bureaus, by following each bureau’s individual process. The credit bureaus will then follow-up with the credit provider and investigate why they have not updated your status, as they are supposed to.

Credit bureaus can escalate a matter like this for further investigation within their organisation, as well as impose a penalty on the service provider, if they are found to have erred. 

You can log your dispute with the following credit bureaus via email at:

Sadly, many consumers are in the dark about their credit report and credit score. Therefore, they don’t have a clear understanding of their overall financial situation or what their individual accounts looks like. Often, consumers only become aware of a default or judgment on their name when they apply for a loan and are turned down. And very few consumers are even aware that they are entitled to one free credit report from every credit bureau once a year.

According to TransUnion, one of South Africa’s leading credit bureaus – fewer than 5% of South African consumers make use of the legislation which entitles them to obtain their credit report free of charge from every credit bureau every year.

South African consumers are unaware of the importance of a credit score, with many not knowing that it’s a number that evaluates your creditworthiness. It is based on your credit history and is displayed on your credit report as a three-digit number. The higher the number, the more financially trustworthy a person is considered to be.

How well or badly you pay your bills or how much debt you have will determine your credit score.

Your credit score in South Africa is one of the most important numbers in your life. Especially if you are in the market for a home loan and vehicle finance.

Your credit report shows your credit score, along with your defaults (accounts that are more than three months in arrears), judgments and applications for credit. Your credit report is basically a collection of data on a specific person, supplied by credit providers to credit bureaus. This is done once a month. Your credit report is a valuable tool used by creditors to determine how risky it is to grant you access to credit.

When a consumer applies for debt review, they will have to give their permission for a full credit report to be drawn by their debt counsellor, on their behalf. This will enable the debt counsellor to have a better overview of their financial situation.

All credit bureaus are mandated by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) to supply consumers with a yearly credit report, so that they may be aware of their credit score and standing at all times.

You may access your free credit score from any of the following credit bureaus:

JustMoney spokesperson responds: 

We’re sorry to hear about your problem. We also understand how frustrating it is because this affects your credit score and your ability to reach your financial goals.

We note that you sent a written notice of cancellation to your service provider, and you’ve paid the cancellation fee and administration fees that you were required to pay. We also note that the 20-day response period mandated by the National Credit Act has lapsed, and despite contacting your service provider again, they have failed to respond to your query.

The next step is to reach out to the National Consumer Commission. This body helps consumers who have been treated unfairly by suppliers and service providers. You can call them on 012 428 7000 / 012 428 7726. Make sure that you have your cancellation letter, all written communication between you and the service provider, and proof of payment on hand. When emailing, also CC the service provider in all communications for complete transparency.

Once you get your proof of cancellation, you should pull your credit report from the main five credit bureaus (Vericred, TransUnion, Experian, XDS and Compuscan) to see where the account is listed. Thereafter, you will need to submit proof of cancellation letter with your ID and your proof of residence to the relevant credit bureau. The credit bureau may take up to 60 days to update your credit report. Please pursue with the bureau if the changes aren’t reflecting by then. 

Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

  • Have a money problem that needs solving? Fin24 can help! Send your question to editor@fin24.com

Disclaimer: Fin24 cannot be held liable for any investment decisions made based on the advice given by independent financial service providers. Under the ECT Act and to the fullest extent possible under the applicable law, Fin24 disclaims all responsibility or liability for any damages whatsoever resulting from the use of this site in any manner.

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