The advent of consumer protection in South Africa has brought with it various institutions that are working at full speed to ensure the rights of the consumer are protected. This new era of consumer protection has seen the birth of the National Consumer Commission and the National Credit Regulator. Amongst these institutions is the National Consumer Tribunal which was established in terms of Section 26 of the National Credit Act 34 of 2005 (the NCA).
The aim of the Tribunal is to achieve fairness and justice for everyone in the consumer and credit market through the adjudication of disputes about consumer credit and allegations of prohibited practice in terms of the NCA and the Consumer Protection Act.
All sides of an argument are heard before the Tribunal makes a decision. A decision made by the Tribunal carries the same weight as one made by a High Court of South Africa.
Section 137 of the NCA provides that the following parties can lodge a complaint with the Tribunal:
- The National Credit Regulator;
- A registrant (NCA requires certain entities and individuals to register with the National Credit Regulator for example debt counsellors);
- Credit Providers; and
A consumer can approach the Tribunal directly in the following circumstances (and on application for various orders including):
- To compel a credit provider to produce a statement of account;
- For a credit provider to compensate a consumer after the sale of surrendered goods;
- For a pawnbroker to compensate a consumer for goods left with a pawnbroker;
- To review the sale of goods; and
- To review the decision of a debt counsellor not to issue a clearance certificate.
It is vital to note that in terms of the NCA you as a consumer have the right to receive periodic statements of account and also have the right to request certain additional information such as your current balance of account.
Furthermore the NCA specifies in clinical detail the fees and interest which credit providers may charge. Any credit providers that charge in excess of that amount engage in prohibited conduct in terms of the Act.
In circumstances where a dispute regards a complaint about prohibited conduct, the National Credit Regulator, after referral of the complaint, will conduct an investigation. The Regulator can, amongst other avenues available to it, refer the matter to the Tribunal for adjudication thereof.
Consult the website of the National Consumer Tribunal at www.thenct.org.za for more information on the process to follow and to obtain links to all the relevant application forms to complete and submit.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)