YOUR MONEY | Who can you turn to with credit problems?

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Q: Am I required to pay back this debt?

“I wasn’t aware that for more than a year my bank hadn’t been deducting my credit-­card repayment from my debit-­card account. Meanwhile, my bank was deducting it from a stranger’s account who also didn’t realise this. When my bank contacted me about the payments I owed, I initially thought it was a fraudulent call. Now the bank wants me to pay back this debt, with interest. Which institution can I turn to for help?” – YOU reader

A: The Ombudsman for Banking

Services and the Cre­dit Ombud are independent bodies that deal with complaints in the banking and credit industry, while the National Credit Regulator (NCR) was set up by the National Credit Act.

Consumers’ complaints are treated confidentially and impartially to ensure all industry players conduct business in an ethical way.

It’s a free service to consumers. Although these bodies often adjudicate complaints in favour of consumers, they’ll rule in favour of the credit provider or bureau should you be at fault.


This office handles complaints from consumers and companies negatively impacted by credit bureau information as well as complaints involving credit agreements with non-bank credit providers such as furniture and clothing stores.

Typical complaints adjudi­cated by the Credit Ombud:

- Mistakes, outdated or incomplete information.

- Double entries for the same debt on your profile.

- Problems at credit bureaux as a result of identity theft.

- Incorrect balances at credit providers.

- Incorrect interest or fees charged.

- Reckless lending – when you can’t afford a loan, but the store gives you an account.

- When you can’t get a statement about a settled account from a credit provider.

- Issues related to the collection of outstanding debt.

- Cancellation or breaking of a credit agreement by a business or a consumer.

- Complaints about wage-attachment orders.

The Credit Ombud’s rulings are binding on its members (credit providers and credit bureaux).

If you’re not satisfied with the ombud’s ruling, you can attempt to resolve the matter yourself by taking legal steps.


This ombud’s office resolves disputes between consumers and banks. A client with a complaint against their bank can ask the ombud for help if the bank is a member of the Banking Association South Africa.

Major banks such as Absa, Nedbank, FNB, Standard Bank, Capitec, Investec and African Bank are all members. You can check on the ombud’s website if your bank is a member.

All the recommendations and rulings of this ombud must be reviewed by a committee.

The banking ombud will help if the complaint:

- Involves products or services of your bank, for example incorrect admin by the bank affecting your account.

- Hasn’t already been submitted to another ombud.

- The amount involved isn’t more than R2 million.

- The incident happened in the past three years.

Complaints the ombud can’t help you with:  

- A bank’s commercial decisions about loans or credit, interest rates or banking costs.

- A matter that will be dealt with more appropriately by a court.

The banking ombud won’t be able to help you get a loan approved, unless the bank made an admin error with your application.

The banking ombud would be able to assist our reader as her problem seemingly originated with an admin error by the bank.


This office ensures the National Credit Act is applied and acts against institutions that break this law.

- The NCR will refer you to the credit ombud if the institution you have a complaint against is a member of the credit ombud.

- All debt counselling disputes are handled by the NCR.


First try to resolve the problem yourself. Make a formal complaint in writing to the institution and ask for a reference number.

Give them at least 20 working days to respond in writing. If their response isn’t satisfactory, call the ombud or NCR who will take up your complaint with the institution.

If the complaint is resolved, your inquiry will be closed. If not, the case will be investigated further, and the ombudsman or NCR will give their ruling.  

When you contact the ombudsman or National Credit Regulator you must be able to provide your personal details, a description of the problem and copies and reference numbers of all communication with the relevant institution.

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