Know your personal finance consumer rights

By Staff Writer

Ignorance may be bliss, but when it comes to your finances, there are consequences. Knowing your rights can help you to avoid paying a high price, particularly when it comes to contractual complications.

We’ve outlined your rights as a consumer in three important financial product areas. Taking the time to read these may save you a great deal of heartache and money.

5 Rights relating to debt

  1. If you’re struggling to pay your debt, you have the right to seek help in the form of debt counselling. In 2007, debt counselling was introduced under the auspices of the National Credit Act to help over-indebted consumers lift their burden of debt.
    If you find yourself having to borrow from one lender to pay another, or you are in arrears, or you can’t track the number of creditors you owe or the amount of debt you have, it may well be time to apply for this service.
  2. As a consumer you can get a free credit score and credit report from credit platforms and some credit bureaus. Experian, for example, offers two platforms that enable you to access these.
  3. If your credit report is showing debts that you know nothing about, you have the right to bring this up with the credit bureaus to investigate and resolve. Make sure that you check your credit report regularly to identify any abnormalities.
  4. If you receive a summons, you have a right to defend the summons. Many people simply ignore these, which causes further financial issues down the line.
  5. If you’ve not heard from a creditor regarding a credit agreement in several years, and a collector suddenly calls, the debt may well have been prescribed. This releases you from all obligation to repay it, and any harassment attached to it is against the law.
    It’s important to note that different debts have different prescription periods. For instance, a mortgage bond can take up to 30 years to be prescribed.
    It's also important to bear in mind that, as a consumer, it is your responsibility to repay any money you owe. Failing to do so can result in legal action and land you in serious trouble.

5 Rights relating to insurance

  1. You have the right to view your policy documentation before the commencement of an insurance policy.
  2. You have the right to expect great service and have the promises made to you, kept.
  3. When you’re not the guilty party in an accident, you have the right to ensure that your insurance company recovers your excess.
  4. If you’re in financial difficulty, you have the right to ask your insurer about options available to reduce the premium.
  5. Some companies will offer discounts if you take out more cover with them - and you have the right to investigate this. For example, if you have contents, buildings and vehicle insurance, you may pay less in combination than the sum of covering them individually.

2 Rights relating to medical aid

  1. You have the right to be accepted by a medical aid scheme, no matter what your age or health status is. You may well however be subject to hefty penalties and waiting periods, if you are considered a high risk.
  2. If you voluntarily move between schemes after 24 months-plus of unbroken cover, you have the right to receive prescribed minimum benefits immediately, even if you are levied with an allowable waiting period.

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