What Are My Consumer Rights

What Are My Consumer Rights

Are you wondering what your consumer rights are?  You find yourself in a situation where you have too much debt and you are constantly getting calls from debt collectors demanding payment.  What are your rights when you find yourself in this situation?

A debt collector is not allowed to:

  • Use force or threaten to use force against you or your family
  • Physically threaten you or your family
  • Give, or threaten to give, information to the consumer’s employer that may affect their opportunities as an employee
  • Serve any false legal documents
  • Present themselves as police officers, sheriffs or officers of the court
  • Spread, or threaten to spread, any false information about your creditworthiness
  • Charge more than the fees set down by the Council

What is the role of the debt collector?

It is important to know exactly what the role of the debt collector is. They are tasked with collecting money and usually have no interest in your circumstances. It’s simple; your account has been handed over to them to recover the money you owe the credit provider. They are paid a percentage of the amount collected while charging service fees for doing so.

Therefore, it is important to first verify any claims made by debt collectors. For claims about consumer finance, including personal loans, credit cards and store cards, you have a legal right to a statement of the amount owed and how it was calculated. If a debt collector refuses to send you copies of loan documents or statements for an alleged debt, you have the right to complain to the Debt Collectors Council. You are also entitled to refuse to pay anything until they give you details in writing and supporting documents to their claim.

Always remember that you should not sign an admission of liability, or consent to judgement, an emoluments attachment or garnishee order.

One of the biggest mistakes consumers make is waiting until the last moment before starting the communication process. Consumers should rather be transparent with their creditors from the moment they sense a crisis is on the way. With the right approach at the right time, more affordable payment plans can be arranged. In this regard, consumers should be encouraged to consider debt counselling which can assist with debt restructuring and re-negotiating instalments and interest rates.

Tips To Avoid Blacklisting

To avoid getting blacklisted, you should not avoid unpaid bills with your creditors. Instead, if you are unable to make a payment, rather than let a debit order bounce, or not pay your account at all, make contact with the creditor.  Communication and transparency can prevent blacklisting. Explain what’s happening to your creditors, and make sensible and affordable arrangements to try and achieve an up to date account.

When you make contact with your creditor and explain a serious situation to them, most of the time they will be willing to help you handle an emergency. This is especially the case if your account is generally in good standing and they can see it’s an exception. On the other hand, leaving the situation by ignoring phone calls and messages from your creditors is not the way to go if you want to avoid getting blacklisted and losing a healthy credit score.

What to do When the Debt Collector Calls

Here are some practical ways you can prepare yourself to deal with your debts. Remember, there is always a way out and your debt collector is actually there to help you. However, there are other tools you can use to help you negotiate with your debt collectors.

1. Preparation

Have all your facts and figures available and ready, so you can begin your negotiations. Get everything in writing. If you have signed any contracts, read them again and make yourself aware of exactly what the debt is about and what the penalties are for late payment. Check any interest and penalties that have already been added.

2. Check your Credit Score and Credit Report

You can do this instantly, online and for free. Your credit score will give you a realistic snapshot of your financial status. It will show you any other overdue debts or judgments you may have against your name.

3. Get a Financial Counselor

Contact Debt Free with Armani and we can assist in negotiating with your creditors on your behalf.

4. Communicate Immediately

Once you have done your preparation. It’s important to communicate with your debt collector straight away. This is so you can avoid further interest and/or legal action against you.

5. Communicate in Writing Only

If you can’t afford to pay in full and want to negotiate either a reduced lump sum or a payment plan, this is where you will need to document your negotiations. Ask your debt collector to respect your wishes and communicate by email or mail only. No phone calls. This way, you can negotiate and communicate at your pace and in your own time, without the pressure and stress of waiting for the debt collector to call again. Even if you’ve previously made an agreement on the phone, get the company to confirm it via email or post. This will ensure you always have a record.

Above all, remember that the best thing to do is face your debt collector fast and head-on. They will respect you for it and you will be surprised how cooperative they can be! You’ll have much less stress in the long run, and get yourself into a better financial position.

When Debt Collectors Misbehave

When dealing with debt collectors, knowledge is power! Knowing how debt collectors operate, as well as what they can and can’t do to collect a debt, should help protect you from their threats.

Debt collectors can’t:

  • Call before 8am or after 9pm, unless the consumer has given them permission
  • Call on a Sunday
  • Contact consumers at work if they know that the consumer’s employer doesn’t want them to be contacted during work hours
  • Get in touch with your employer about the debt you owe, unless that debt is past-due child maintenance
  • Contact relatives, friends or neighbours to embarrass you into paying your debt. They can, however, contact them to find out how to get in touch with you but are not permitted to say why they need the information.
  • Communicate with you about your debt by using a postcard or an envelope that clearly indicates that a debt collector sent it.
  • Call you over and over again during a relatively short period of time. For example, calling you repeatedly during a single morning or afternoon.
  • Swear or insult you when you are having a conversation with them.
  • Order you to accept calls from them.
  • Deposit a post-dated check you have given them before the date on the check.
  • Collect more than you owe on a debt unless the contract the debt collector signed with the creditor states that they can.

Remember if you are being hounded by debt collectors you should consider debt counselling as it is the fastest and easiest way to get the debt collectors off your back.

References:

www.thebalance.com/debt-collection-that-is-not-yours-4121109

www.essentials.co.za/money-and-work/debt-collection-know-your-rights-and-use-them

www.debtrecoveries.com.au/what-to-do-when-the-debt-collector-calls

www.debtbusters.co.za/abc/what-debt-collectors-cant-do

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