Human Rights
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Know your rights this Human Right’s Day: 21 March 2022

This upcoming long weekend, we encourage you to take a moment and remember why it is a long weekend in the first place. On Monday, 21 March 2022, it is Human Rights Day. This public holiday is a reminder that you do have basic human rights. These human rights apply to everyone, despite the situation and circumstances you may find yourself in.

Rising interest rates and an uptick in inflation are squeezing South African consumers between the proverbial rock and hard place, as the cost of servicing debts goes up while the purchasing power of their money declines.

The most affluent consumers in South Africa have the highest increasing default loan rate.

Debt and your rights

Taking that into consideration do you know your basic human rights when it comes to debt management and debt repayments?  Especially your rights around missed debt repayments, repossession of your assets, and other such scenarios. Here are 10 of your given rights when you decide to go into (or consider) the debt review process: 

  1. Consumers have the right to apply for debt counselling. You do not need to feel concerned about its applicability to your situation as your debt counsellor will inform you of your specific route forward, you at minimum have a right to apply for these services. 

  2. Should the application be rejected, consumers have the right to request for or be provided with any reasons that may disallow them from the debt review process. You have the right to know the details that have led to your rejection. 

  3. Consumers have the right to receive the written disclosure of fees applicable before debt counselling or going under debt review. You should never be blindsided, you have a right to have full disclosure of what you are getting into prior to committing to the process. 

  4. Consumers have a right to full disclosure of the debt counselling process prior to applying for debt counselling. which, in essence, means that you have a right to know all information and the ins and outs of the process prior to proceeding and committing to the process. 

  5. Consumers have the right to receive distribution statements from their debt counsellors and Payment Distribution Agencies (PDAs) on a monthly basis. This will help you with understanding your progress and is important to keep a personal record of your finances. 

  6. Consumers have the right to be legally protected. This is a right that individuals often forget about, however, at all times you may seek legal representation and be protected by law. 

  7. Consumers have the right to pay an affordable reduced instalment. Should you commit to the process, you pay installments within your means so that you have a reasonable standard of living too. You have the right to make affordable installments based on your financial situation. 

  8. Consumers have the right to be issued with a clearance certificate once all short term debt has been paid. Should your Debt counsellor be satisfied with your payments and your current situation, and your debt has been cleared, you will (and have the right to) be issued with the clearance certificate relevant to you.  

  9. Consumers have the right to be updated with all changes happening during the process. There may be times where a situation changes in your financial situation or in the repayment of your debts. You have the right to be notified and updated in real time. Remember, if it is with regards to your own financial situation, you must be informed. 

  10. Right to statements of payments being distributed. This right is to ensure that you keep track of where your money is going and are able to have full transparency between your debt counsellor and yourself. 

With all these rights in place throughout the debt review process, you must consider the responsibilities accompanying these rights. You may have heard the phrase ‘Rights and Responsibilities’, well it’s true that they go hand in hand. Below are a few responsibilities you must meet in accordance with the above rights you do have. 

  1. Consumers have a responsibility to ensure full and correct financial disclosure at the time of application. You cannot be untruthful, remember this is not helpful to anyone including yourself! 

  2. Consumers have a responsibility to make monthly repayments as agreed with the debt counsellor. You need to have commitment, if you agree to make payments to gain control of your finances again you must live up to your word. 

  3. Consumers have the responsibility to follow up on monthly payments made to the PDAs. As according to your right above, a good debt counsellor will be someone who you can rely on and who will help you with this process. 

  4. Consumers have a responsibility to ensure that they understand the process, applicable fees and implications prior to setting out. You need to do your research and be sure to commit to the process and all that comes with it! There is no good in half agreeing to some things and dismissing other elements of the process… it’s all or nothing. 

  5. Make payments regularly to the debt counsellor, this responsibility is arguably the most important of them all. You need to be consistent throughout this process to ensure overall success. 

  6. Notify the debt counsellor of any changes in circumstances financially that occur to your personal life. Should something drastic change, you need to inform your debt counsellor without delay! 

These rights and responsibilities are but a few of your rights and reasonability as a South African and global citizen. Let the 21st of March be a day where you consider where you are in your financial situation and how you want to exercise your rights going forward! Remember, sometimes, the only way through a tricky situation is straight through it! But your will not be alone. The debt counselling process has changed many people's lives, in South Africa and beyond- it could be the ultimate answer you have been looking for.

 

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