South African consumers are relying more and more on credit. According to the National Credit Regulator (NCR), the number of credit-active consumers is now at 20,29-million, an increase of 0,4% compared to the previous quarter. Based on the growing number of applications for credit, the NCR has reported that South Africans are literally drowning in debt.

In the wake of this trend, Pitney Bowes South Africa, part of the global technology and mailstream company, has developed a Web-based credit check system for all credit-active consumers.

The Web site, MYpbVerify, has been designed to provide consumers with an efficient and private way of obtaining their latest credit record and status. The system forms a value-added subset of Pitney Bowes’ pbVerify, a credit verification service aimed at small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which the company launched in January 2013.

While the much-debated new credit amnesty law has altered the credit landscape in South Africa, the high number of credit-active consumers remains. The amnesty, which came into effect on 1 April 2014, has effectively removed adverse listings from consumers who were previously blacklisted. This has made life much easier for such consumers who previously had to undergo a lengthy and expensive legal process to have their names cleared.

The amnesty, while not affecting existing judgements, means that adverse small and micro listings have been removed, as well as all collections records. The amnesty does not absolve a consumer from having to pay existing debts, however.

“The reason behind the government’s new credit amnesty is to drive economic growth by making credit more widely available and removing certain obstacles to employment opportunities,” notes Leon van der Merwe, business development manager at Pitney Bowes South Africa.

“The amnesty will positively impact the credit score of many consumers who had historic adverse information linked to their name. Going forward, however, it is still recommended that all credit active consumers check their credit status every six months, whether they are affected by the amnesty or not.”

Since its inception, the number of businesses across South Africa using the pbVerify risk-management platform has grown to 2000, according to van der Merwe.

“More and more customers are using our online system on a daily basis to check the credit status of prospective consumers and businesses. Much of the success of the system can be attributed to the value that pbVerify brings to businesses, in that it serves as a single point of entry via any internet connection to the four major credit bureaus in South Africa,” Van der Merwe points out.

“Although highly successful, pbVerify serves business clients only,” he continues.

“We therefore saw a definite need for a broader service addressing the increasing demand for premium personal credit reports, in a secure and discreet way.”

MYpbVerify came on-line in August 2013, providing individual consumers easy access to the full picture of their credit history and credit score. Information includes fraud indicators, credit bureau data, deeds data and CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) information.

“In many cases, consumers are not aware of their credit status. The MYpbVerify credit report considers all possible influences that may exist on your credit rating and combines it into a single credit check report, which gives you a full picture of your credit history and credit status in the market,” says Van der Merwe.

He adds that the system is extremely easy to use, with a user-friendly and informative interface and online ordering system. Consumers simply visit and complete the order form, and then pay via electronic funds transfer or credit card to obtain their report.

Consumer credit information is gathered by credit bureaus on a regular basis from various sources that have extended credit. Retailers, banks, lenders, employers, landlords, and other credit providers have access to consumer credit records to assist them with credit risk management. This assists them in deciding whether to grant further credit to consumers, loans, credit cards, employment, housing, or to offer new products and services.

“Regardless of the new credit amnesty law, as a South African consumer it is critical to know your credit status and always have a complete picture of your credit history and credit score. The pbVerify platform simplifies this process for businesses and consumers alike,” Michael Springer, MD of Pitney Bowes South Africa, concludes.