Saturday 15 May 2021
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Lawmakers want ITC reforms

Namibian lawmakers want credit bureaus such as Trans-union Credit Bureau, well-known amongst credit defaulters as ITC, to undergo reforms that will ensure that personal information of clients is protected and that client data is hosted locally.
ITC is the name that South African consumers used to refer to a Credit Bureau for the mere fact that the only credit bureau that was operating in the country for a long period was ITC. This was eventually bought by an international American based company called, Trans-union Credit Bureau.
Popular Democratic Movement(PDM) lawmaker Vipuakuje Muharukua tabled the motion this week saying reforms are needed to protect Namibian consumers.
Nekundi recommended that the motion should be referred to relevant parliamentary standing committees to ensure the necessary reform and changes to the regulations are brought to Parliament as a matter of urgency.
Muharukua said the personal data protection and financial information of consumers is not protected and credit bureau data are hosted in foreign countries. He also expressed concern that the information is shared with third parties in South Africa and possible in Europe and the USA.
This is despite the fact that Namibian regulations prohibit credit bureaus to release information to third parties without written information from the data subject.
The Credit Bureau Regulation also compels Credit Bureaus to maintain a system to trace proven or suspected breaches of security that include details of credit history affected, details of the breach, and any action taken as a result of an investigation.
Credit Bureaus are expected to maintain the highest form of security to protect the data in their custody.
Home Affairs and Immigration Minister Frans Kapofi, during his contribution to the debate, expressed concern over the fact that the credit information of Namibian information is kept in South Africa.
“This is a total disregard of our country and its laws. It is disrespectful because these people would call you from South Africa telling you that your account is in arrears, are we really saying this cannot be done locally?” he questioned.
Kapofi said credit bureaus should be compelled to localise their operations which will subsequently boost domestic job creation.
Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Veikko Nekundi said Bank of Namibia on an annual basis performs a security penetration test to determine any vulnerabilities that could potentially lead to security breaches.
“On Hosting Data Locally: part 5 of Annexure 1 of the credit bureau regulations is explicit that should a Credit Bureau wish to host the data outside Namibia, it must indicate how it will maintain sovereignty of Namibian data before their application is approved as credit bureau. The expectation is that a Credit Bureau must segregate Namibian data and should be in a position to provide that data if requested to do so by the Namibian authorities,” said Nekundi.
Nekundi said Namibia has laws regulating the credit bureaus in Namibia but questioned whether the laws are sufficient enough to protect the rights of consumers.
“To my understanding they are not and a lot still needs to be done. But what is coming out strongly is that it is not really the lack of laws but rather the lack of consumer education and awareness and lack of enforcement. I am sure that even most of members here did not know about this provisions, that for an example you are entitled to a free print out of your credit information per annum and you can challenge it if if incorrect,” he said.
Muharukua said there is a need for a public hearing and consultation with banking institutions by parliament.
To this, Nekundi said: “My proposition is that this sector is already regulated by Bank of Namibia (BoN), and Namfisa. BoN conducts regular inspections to ensure compliance. Thus, while we have two regulators in this field, which is BoN and NAMFISA, I think what is required is to urgently request these two institutions to review and strengthen the existing regulations and as a matter of urgency develop a consumer protection act as well as to conduct extensive consumer education.”
In developing the Consumer Protection Act, Nekundi said the regulators must conduct appropriate research and benchmark on the best practice around the globe including the need for an Ombudsman’s credit role without copying and pasting.
He also wants a review of all credit contracts’ standards in order to ensure protection of our consumers as well as the review of minimum credit scores that amount to the data subject being classified as bad payer.
“Creditors must be held accountable if they lend consumers more than they can afford. They[creditors] must also be held accountable if the information is hacked due to their negligence. Finally on hosting sovereignty data abroad, I am of strong position that the information of Namibian data subjects must be hosted on the Namibian soil and international creditors can only be given access through stringent regulations,” he said.
He called on BoN to ensure that the regulation is amended to effect such changes.

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