Understanding your credit report

Frequently Asked Questions(By Credit Bureau Association)

  1. What is a credit report? A credit report is information about your credit history that is kept by a Credit Bureau. It contains information such as your name, address, employer and ID number, which are the details you give when completing a credit application form. They also keep details on your credit history such as the account history and the history of paying habits i.e. do you pay your accounts regularly and on time. A credit report does not contain any discriminatory data such as race, sex or religious beliefs.
  2. What is an account history? The account history is a historical log of the accounts you have and a record of how you pay them – e.g. on due date or if you have missed a payment. This historical log also includes the opening amount, outstanding balance as well as the monthly installment due on each account.
  3. Who can view my credit report information? When you apply for credit you give the store or bank consent to view your credit report. This information will help them make responsible decisions about whether or not to grant you credit, the amount of credit you can afford and at what interest rate. In order to be approved for credit you have to give the store information to help them make a good business decision. You also have the opportunity to access your own credit report free once a year. To find out more about obtaining a copy of your credit report click here.
  4. Why do stores or banks not give me a copy of my credit report? Stores & banks do not have employees that are adequately trained to counsel you on your credit report and cannot advise you on steps that you need to take to understand and manage your credit report.
  5. What is default data? Default data is negative information supplied to the Credit Bureau by the store or bank if you default on your agreement with them by not paying your account. A default remains on your report for 2 years or 1 year depending on the description of the default.
  6. When do stores or banks note default data on a credit report? Each store or bank has its own policies. In order for a credit grantor to submit a default, they must:
    • Provide the consumer with 20 business days prior notice of the default information being submitted to a Credit Bureau.
    • Be a registered subscriber.
    • Ensure that the default information is accurate.
    • Confirm that the account is not in dispute.
  7. What is a judgment? When you fall behind with your accounts or fail to make payments and fail to respond to reminder letters the store or bank may apply for a court judgment. A judgment is granted when a court has ordered that you make payment on the debt or outstanding account. A judgment remains on your report for 5 years.
  8. When can a store or bank repossess my goods? Different banks or stores have different credit granting policies. However, each store or bank would detail this policy in the agreement that is signed with you when you enter into a credit agreement with them.
  9. How do I correct an error in my credit information? Accuracy is crucial to all Credit Bureaus and we encourage all consumers to request an investigation into their disputed account information if they believe that there is an error on their credit report or to send the credit bureau proof of any changes to their contact details. The Credit Bureau will update your information and also investigate where required. If information is found to be inaccurate, or can no longer be verified, it will be deleted. If an investigation does not resolve the question within 20 business days that the process allows for then the matter can be referred to the Credit Ombudsman.
  10. I have obtained my credit report from a Credit Bureau, but the balance on account history is incorrect…how do I get that rectified? Your credit grantors may not have sent an update to indicate that you have been paying your account (s). The quickest way to amend this is to request that they send the credit bureau an update; .You can also request that the Credit Bureau investigates this for you (this may take up to 20 business days).
  11. I have accessed my credit report, but my report shows out-dated address information? The reason could be that you have not been credit active, thus your information has not been updated. If you would like to proactively update your information you will need to provide:
    • A copy of your Identity Document
    • Proof of your address details (e.g. electricity bill, credit account statements) iii. A letter indicating that you are authorizing the Credit Bureau to update your records
  12. I have accessed my report and have realised that there are organisations that have been accessing my report without my consent. I am concerned that I may be declined credit due to the many enquiries appearing on my name? Each time an enquiry is done on your report, details of the business that has done an enquiry ‘footprints’ on the Credit Bureau database. You can then phone the business concerned and find out why your report was accessed. No business should access your credit report without your consent (this consent is often in the fine print of your application form).
  13. Is my report and my spouse’s combined because we are married in community of property? No, every individual has his/her own credit report even though you may be married in community of property.
  14. If I am married in Community of Property and my spouse has a negative listing, will I have difficulty obtaining credit? You might have difficulty obtaining credit if you are jointly applying for credit. For example, when applying for a joint bond, credit checks will be conducted on both parties and if either of you has negative information on your credit report, you might experience difficulty accessing credit.
  15. Why are the terms and conditions on the application form always written in fine print and in legal jargon, which cannot be easily understood by the average person? An application form is a legal document. Most credit grantors try to use language, which is understandable to their customers. Before signing any contract, ask the credit grantor to explain any terms that you don’t understand.
  16. I have an account, which is being paid on a monthly basis, but my balance does not seem to decrease? When you apply for credit, you need to find out how much interest you will be charged on the item. Request that this is explained to you in simple language, and always request that you be given slips, each time you pay towards an account.
  17. What if people have bought on my ID? The CBA encourages consumers to manage their credit reports by accessing their reports at least once a year to see what is on the report. If your credit report reflects accounts that you did not open you should contact the companies that have enquired on you and request that they provide you with the application form, which you have allegedly signed, when you opened the account. Should you receive no feedback, we encourage you to contact the Credit Bureaus to lodge a dispute.
  18. My mother asked me to sign an account on her behalf? If you sign for a contract, it will reflect in your name and not in your mother’s. Failure to pay the amount could result in a default or a judgment against you. Never give your name to someone else or sign on their behalf.
  19. I have seen notices of companies that claim to be able to remove my name. What can these companies do for me? These companies are known as credit repair companies. The CBA advises consumers to take care when engaging with credit repair agencies advertising services for the reversal of credit ‘blacklistings’ and the clearing of adverse data from consumers’ personal credit reports. See below for more information:

If you have adverse information on your credit report you are encouraged to take advantage of the free annual service provided by the credit bureau as prescribed by the National Credit Act. Consumers have the right to access their credit reports once each year at no cost, as prescribed by the Act. Call center agents are also on hand at the relevant bureau and are trained to assist consumers with better understanding their reports and with advising them on possible courses of action for remedying any uncertain or negative information.

Credit information must be retained by the credit bureau for a defined period of time, as per the National Credit Act. Consumers have the right to dispute the data contained in their reports should they feel it is incorrect. The onus is then on the bureau to investigate that data and remove it from the consumers record should there not exit substantial supporting evidence for that information.

Should you wish to appeal a judgment on your credit report, you are advised to engage with a reputable firm of attorneys who can make an application to the courts on their behalf.