Monday, 18 March 2013

Transunion ITC has no legal framework

While doing research, I came across the website of these submissions by students at UNAM,  (http://wwwisis.unam.na/theses). Among the papers I discovered a paper entitled “Consumer Protection And The Legality Of Itc. A Compartative Study Between Namibia, South Africa” presented by N. Boonzaaier (Student Number 200645838) with his supervisor being K. Kangueehi.

Boonzaaier in his abstract states… “Credit sales are a common occurrence and originated before the Roman era. As time passed, especially after the industrial revolution of the 19th century (which made available consumer goods on a large scale), an increasing number of contracts of purchase and sale were concluded in terms of which payment of the purchase price would take place at a later date or over a period of time in the future. It is an incontestable fact that some ‘purchases on credit’ constitute a risk. Not only for the credit grantor, but even more so for the consumer.
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It is common knowledge that the use of consumer credit enables individuals to enjoy the services of consumer durable goods sooner than they otherwise and in a period of inflation offers them a real prospect of acquiring them more cheaply. Consumers in general are able to obtain a more satisfying ‘basket’ of goods and services with the same income. Thus consumer credit may be said to enhance consumer satisfaction. Furthermore some individuals who lack the self-discipline to save up for the purchase of a durable consumer good but are nevertheless unlikely to break their contract with a creditor are able to buy a durable consumer good which might otherwise never be theirs.

He then goes on to explore the rights of consumers, why consumer protection is needed, and the right to privacy of consumers in congruency to section 28, Article 13 of the Namibian Constitution and the provisions of the Bill of rights.

At the end of the paper he makes the following recommendations “…I concede that currently in Namibia there is no procedure in place that regulates ITC, this makes it seem like the Transunion has no legal standing in our law. It has, however, become necessary for Namibia to reform their consumer legislation and consumer protection laws, and put in place as the South Africans procedural guidelines to follow in instances of extreme default where blacklisting would be justified, because if we should declare ITC illegal, credit grantors would in actual fact have no remedy against a defaulting consumer, and this would render an imbalance of rights.”

The Ministry of Finance has promised legislation on credit bureaus and how they manage our data. Until such time, I have to strongly urge the Minister, Bank of Namibia and Namfisa work out a solution to fix this problem. Since 1999 a proposal has been made such a credit bureau would actually fit well into our Cooperatives Act without much being done in addition. This would make the cooperatives operations governed by a set of by-laws, as well as ensure ownership by the business that share this information with each other. Of course, this would also mean that Transunion would only be allowed to own a maximum of 20% in the cooperative. A rather neat way of getting Namibian ownership of a strategic resource (personal information) without using black economic empowerment or other such tools.

 In the meantime, perhaps we can consider some kind of grandfather clause to allow their operations to continue until a new law is in place.

There is another issue though that I wish to ponder:

In addition to providing credit reports to credit grantors, they also supply potential employers and some of the high unemployment can be put squarely on the shoulders of the credit bureau. After all no employer wishes to employ a person listed on the “blacklist” so many qualified people are now outside of possible employment. I argue that is, if not unconstitutional, then against the labour law, as you may not discriminate on grounds of the person’s economic status.


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