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Speak Up Against Unfair Credit Listings

Credit Ombud assists women who are unfairly listed.

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August is of course women’s month, and the Credit Ombud is focusing on continuing to help women who have been unfairly listed with a credit bureau for unpaid debts. The Credit Ombud resolves complaints from consumers and businesses that are negatively impacted by credit bureau information or when a consumer has a dispute with a credit provider, debt counsellor or payment distribution agent.

According to Credit Ombud, Manie van Schalkwyk, if a debt collector lists a consumer with a credit bureau they must have followed a number of steps outlined in the National Credit Act (NCA). “Failing to do this can mean a consumer is incorrectly listed, which can have a severe negative impact on the consumers’ life, including affecting their job or chances of employment,” he says.

Real-life examples

According to the Credit Ombud, it is not unusual for a person to be incorrectly and unfairly listed for unpaid debts on a credit bureau. For example, the Ombud recently investigated a complaint from a consumer who had moved her children from a private school to a public school as the family was experiencing financial difficulties. Although the woman confirmed with the private school telephonically that her accounts were up to date, she received a letter from the school informing her that there was more than R4 000 in fees outstanding.

“The letter did not mention their intention to list the alleged default at the bureau, nor that the account would be handed over to a debt collector who will list the information at the bureau,” explains van Schalkwyk.  “Even after she had settled her account, she was still handed over to a debt collector without her knowledge.”

The debt collector then listed her as defaulting on her credit profile as she had failed to pay a penalty fee. Her employment was jeopardised and she lodged a complaint based on the fact that she had not been notified about any of the charges, including the penalty fee. She also was not informed at any stage of their intention to list her at the credit bureau. “We contacted the credit bureau to find out if correct procedure was followed before the consumer was listed and neither the school nor the debt collector had complied with the requirements in the NCA,” says van Schalkwyk. “The credit bureau was ordered to remove the listing from the consumer’s profile.”

Bad listings a threat to employment

Van Schalkwyk explains that having a default listing against a consumer’s name, even for a small amount, can not only cause financial distress, but prejudice their chances of getting a job or accessing further credit.

Under the National Credit Act (NCA), consumers have the right to access and challenge information held by a credit bureau and are entitled to get this information free of charge once a year. If the consumer requests the information more than once in a twelve month period they may have to pay a small fee which is also regulated by the NCA. “Consumers are entitled to challenge and request proof of the accuracy of information held by a credit bureau as well as that the correct procedure should have been followed prior to any listing,” adds van Schalkwyk. “Should a credit bureau fail to provide the consumer with proof of accuracy of information or that the stipulated procedure was followed, it is compelled to remove the disputed information from its records.”

Van Schalkwyk says there is a clear process to follow if you believe that incorrect information has been lodged with a credit bureau under your credit profile.

He suggests consumers do the following:

  • If your application for credit is refused or you have a bad credit rating, find out the name of the credit bureau which gave a report about you
  • Check if the information is correct
  • If it is not, contact the credit bureau and lodge a dispute
  • The credit bureau must give you a reference number
  • The credit bureau must correct the information or resolve the dispute within 20 business days
  • If you are not satisfied with the outcome, or if you did not get an answer from the credit bureau
  • Lodge a complaint with the Credit Ombud

During 2010, 3 870 disputes were opened at the office of the Credit Ombud of which more than 90% were finalised. The Credit Ombud ruled in favour of consumers in 69% of cases and 86% of all cases were resolved within 60 days.  The services of the Credit Ombud are provided free of charge to consumers who lodge complaints against credit providers, debt counsellors, payment distribution agents and credit bureau.

Consumers can contact the Credit Ombud office on 0861 66 28 37 or visit www.creditombud.org.za

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The Innovator Trust And Citi Are Searching For Black-Owned Smes Who Are Ready For Growth

The Innovator Trust, an enterprise development organisation, and the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), Africa’s oldest incubator, are calling on Cape Town-based growth-stage ICT entrepreneurs to join the intensive 2-year enterprise development programme.

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The ICT sector has gone from strength to strength and is one of the fastest-growing industries on the African continent. Yet African entrepreneurs are still finding it a difficult business landscape to navigate. That is why The Innovator Trust and CiTi, through exposure, training and mentorship, now aim to equip entrepreneurs and businesses in the sector with tools that will keep them on track, assist them to achieve their goals and create tech leaders of the future.

ICT entrepreneurs in need of mentorship, skills development and business support who have been operating for more than 2 years and are fiercely committed to growing their business, can now apply to the prestigious 2-year Innovator Trust programme, co-developed and run by CiTi at the Woodstock Bandwidth Barn and remotely in Cape Town. Applications close on 22 February and the selected candidates will be announced on 4 March.

The Innovator Trust programme aims to support the: increase annual turnover, equip businesses with the necessary accreditation to remove red tape, as well as increase profitability and number of employees. Get ready to move the dial on your business.

Celebrating its 20th year of supporting entrepreneurs, CiTi currently runs a number of incubation programmes from idea to growth stage. After a very successful first cohort of the programme, completed in 2018, CiTi confirmed a second collaboration with the Innovator Trust to support further Cape Town businesses over the next two years. Applicants need to be in “ICT”, but this has included a broad range of focusses in the past, from IT recruitment, network security to cabling service provider and software solutions.

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

The programme, designed by CiTi and Innovator Trust, is not to be taken lightly. Monthly training, mentorship sessions with industry experts, and a strong focus on technical improvements means a substantial time and focus commitment by the entrepreneur. But this intensive design enables significant business progression over the two years.

 “Once the entrepreneurs who take part in our Enterprise Development programmes become more established, they turn their focus to growth. This accelerator is especially for entrepreneurs who’ve created businesses with high-growth potential and provides them with the skills to scale at speed and responsibly,” says Tashline Jooste, CEO of the Innovator Trust.

Cape Town was recently confirmed as the Tech Hub of Africa, by an Endeavor Insight Report commissioned by CiTi and partners, presenting growing opportunities for those businesses serious about growth, and with the right support.

“I believe strongly that ICT entrepreneurs are going to be critical to South Africa’s economic growth, which is why we need to focus on equipping these businesses with the skills they need to grow, create jobs and stimulate our economy,” adds Jooste.

In order to be considered for the programme, prospective applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • A company defined in South Africa as an SMME, QSE or EME;
  • Must be operational and trading for two or more years;
  • The business should be at least 51% black-owned;
  • A minimum Level 1 – 4 BBBEE status according to the DTI or ICT Codes;
  • The business must be a registered company with key focus in ICT and be based in Cape Town and surrounding areas.

In addition, applicants will need to supply copies of their company registration, company profile, and annual financial statements along with their BEE certificate and IDs with their applications.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

“We had a fantastic experience on the Innovator Trust programme, perhaps most beneficial was the advice and mentorship on our financial management, up-skilling of our team, and establishing a 3-year budget and growth plan for the business. Our advice to entrepreneurs considering the course is “JUST DO IT!!!” The skills and knowledge you gain are invaluable and put us on a serious growth trajectory.” states Jennifer Classen, Founder of Ngaphaya Y2K10, and Participant in the 2015 – 2018 Innovator Trust programme.

Ready to grow your business? Learn more about the programme and submit your application HERE.

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Rocket Challenge Targets Local Coding Skills

The Rocket APT Challenge is open to undergraduate students 18 years of age or older who are currently studying engineering, science, or technology at an accredited college or university.

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Addressing the growing skills gap within software development, local information technology value added distributor, Axiz has sponsored the Rocket APT Challenge and encouraged 39 students to participate in the regional round of the Rocket.Build coding challenge. This comprises 40% of the total numbers of entries received globally. Hosted by Rocket Software and APT Solutions, this annual challenge provides a forum for participants to develop applications on Rocket’s MultiValue platform.

Colleen Becker, Axiz pre-sales engineer, says that the response to the challenge was exceptional and the company is excited to be part of this global initiative: “This is a fantastic innovation challenge that provides students with an opportunity to hone their coding skills on a leading software platform. South Africa is by far the bigger pool of entrants and we are excited to see who is selected for the global Rocket.Build 2019 Hackathon.”

Participants are required to design an app on Rocket’s MultiValue application platform in support of the challenge theme: ‘Improve your Community’. Consisting of three regions: EMEA, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas, three winners from each region will be selected and awarded a cash prize of:

  • $1,000 (USD) – third place
  • $2,500 (USD) – second place
  • $5,000 (USD) – first place

Related: Want To Take Your Coding To The Next Level? Check Out These 7 Productivity Hacks

The nine developers will also be given an all-expenses-paid trip to Massachusetts, USA in June 2019 to participate in Rocket.Build 2019, where they will compete in teams of three to decide the global winner of the Rocket APT Challenge. The winning team will share a grand prize of $24,000 (USD).

Becker says that this is the first year Axiz is participating and the company will definitely register for the 2020 challenge, recruiting of which starts in September 2019: “We are committed to grow the number of young coders on the Rocket platform. There is a global opportunity for students to graduate into a developing industry and support the growing shortage of MultiValue-certified coders. Participants also stand the chance of receiving an internship from participating partners across all industry sectors.”

The Rocket APT Challenge is open to undergraduate students 18 years of age or older who are currently studying engineering, science, or technology at an accredited college or university.

For more information, contact colleen.becker@axiz.com

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SMEs: Have You Completed Your Financial Planning For 2019?

While small to medium enterprise (SME) owners may not have a great deal of control over South Africa’s broader economic issues, they do have control over how they plan and manage their finances, says EasyBiz Technologies Managing Director, Gary Epstein.

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“The failure of many SMEs to make it past the critical 3.5-year mark is more as a result of their inability to get the fundamentals right, rather than being able to deal with issues such as political uncertainty, crime or credit-rating downgrades.

“Several SMEs do not gain an adequate understanding of their markets or the competition they are up against. In addition, failure to manage their finances properly or to access funding and adapt to changes in the marketplace can also be serious hindrances to success.”

Epstein believes without proper financial planning and management, businesses place themselves on the back foot. “Business owners can only make informed decisions when they have a clear view of what is happening with their finances.”

That’s why having the proper financial management tools in place is so important for start-ups and SMEs. “At EasyBiz Technologies, we offer accounting solutions that are aimed at helping businesses manage their finances properly and placing them on a sound financial footing,” adds Epstein.

Tangible outcomes of a good system include increased productivity, reduced monthly expenses, improved accuracy, simplified tax compliance and better financial security. An effective system can also provide critical business insights and allow business owners to make informed and proactive decisions.

Epstein says efficient accounting solutions can help speed up business processes, affording business owners more time to focus on their core processes and growing their operations. “After all, time and money are the most precious resources when it comes to running a small business.

Related: 6 Steps Of Financial Planning

“Our solutions include analysis tools, report making applications and payroll assistance. In addition, income and expense trackers provide valuable information for tax and audit preparations,” he adds.

Epstein urges SMEs to plan for 2019 if they haven’t done so already. “It’s not too late to prepare for the year ahead and, with the financial year end for many businesses looming, now is the time to get a good system in place.”

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