Annual DCASA Conference

Debt Counsellors Association of South Africa Conference

dcasa-logoEach year the Debt Counsellors Association of South Africa (DCASA) host a conference in Kempton Park at Emperors Palace. The 2016 conference happened this week. Over 200 people managed to get seats at the conference this year. DCASA are the largest Debt Counsellor association in South Africa and are also the oldest of the current associations having been formed around the same time as the enactment of the NCA.

The venue, as always, was very pleasant and the event was well run. Attendees arrived nice and early to meet and mingle and to dodge the traffic. Guests were signed in and received welcome packs and name badges before heading in to grab a chair. The conference presents the opportunity for many to meet with creditors (Such as ABSA, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank) who were present on the day and on hand to help take queries and complaints. Also at the conference were all 3 PDAs and some of the computer software providers. Several speakers were arranged to entertain and educate the attendees.

Speakers included (among others):

Paul Slot (President of DCASA)

Mr Leon Lategan

Ms Mamello Matikinca (FNB)

Mr. Walter Volker (PASA)

Sadly all 6 representatives from the NCR all cancelled last minute (which caused some consternation among the audience who viewed it as a real snub) while the National Treasury tied in over the phone.

Highlights of  the Day

mel chairman 2016Chairman for the day was Mr Mel da Silva who has played the part before. He began with the pithy thought that nothing is foolproof for a fool.

“nothing is foolproof for a fool”

He kept the audience informed and amused throughout the day with quips and comments as well as contributing to the question and answer session. During the day attendees were encouraged to write down questions that occurred to them during the various presentation or things they have on their mind and then submit these for consideration later in the day by the speakers and others in the audience.

 

 

 

paul sMel invited the DCASA President Mr. Paul Slot to open the conference with an interesting speech about industry developments and issues facing the association. He highlighted the results of some research into consumers (earning around R15 000/month) and how they were coping (or not coping) with their debt stress and obligations. He looked at the all too common view of consumers that the way out of debt or tricky situations was to try access more debt. He also mentioned during his presentation that the NCR have taken on a consultant to investigate the issue of Debt Review fees. The consultant has been busy for about a month now and has another 2 months of research to go. This research will then be presented to the NCR. Ultimately the DTI will look at the issue of fees and will consider raising or lowering or perhaps just adjusting them. The same firm reported to the NCR this year on the topic of ADRs.

websitesOver 100 000 google searches are run every month in SA for debt relief and debt review related topics. Thus the next speaker of the day was of interest to an audience who are constantly on the lookout for new clients.Mr Leon Lategan, who is an expert in internet marketing, discussed the use of websites by Debt Counselling firms. He showed a number of local debt counselling firms websites and highlighted some obvious weaknesses. While most of the audience had a website he pointed to the truth that this “unpaid sales person” (the website) is probably not getting Debt Counsellors clients due to bad design and poor optimisation. He got a number of chuckles out of the audience with his interactive presentation and offer of being friend, foe or sexual partner. He delved into the mindset of the consumer, what they want and how websites need to offer it to them within 1 second of a visitor arriving on the website.

 

Mamello MatikincaMs. Mamello Matikinca (Economist at FNB) discussed the factors leading to changes in the current economy in SA (and elsewhere) and looked a head at what could happen next year (eg. changes to VAT). Despite some high level terminology and fast paced graphs, the message was clear: Consumers are still in trouble and will continue to need debt review.

 

 

 NCR Snub Upsets Audience

Not the NCR logoWhen the audience learnt that the speaker from the NCR had cancelled the day before the conference they were disappointed as they would like to have not only heard from the regulator but also engaged with them in the question and answer session. When they then learnt that all 6 of the NCR team who had booked and been catered for had decided not to come the mood quickly turned to bitterness. Many we spoke to said they felt it was  a real slight from the NCR and that they were not impressed. The organisers tried to keep everyone calm and set everyone’s mind at rest but the audience were not happy. Mr Slot was able to use the time to make a presentation in regar dto some training that DCASA will take the lead in in regard to one of the NCR’s guidelines. In January 2015 the NCr issued the findings of their 2009 task team report as a guideline to the industry. Mr Slot pointed to the fact that over half in the room had only begun working in the industry after the report had been released and so many were not aware of key aspects. He pointed to the fact that many credit providers have forgotten that they (unlike Debt Counsellors for whom the report and NCR guideline are optional) had given written commitment to adhere to the report processes. He mentioned that training about the report will role out at a provincial level at DCASA meetings over the next few months.

 

PASA WalterWith the mood more normal again it was over to Mr Walter Volker of the Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) to discuss the somewhat overdue and still ongoing authenticated collections project. This project is aimed at reducing the abuses of the Aedo and Naedo debit systems. In fact, he discussed how these early debit systems may eventually fall away in the future. The idea behind authenticated collections is that companies or service providers and their banks get consumers to officially give permission (once off) for a debit to go off their accounts.  This could for instance take place via a mobile phone. The idea is that this would happen right at the beginning of any ongoing debit and that the companies would prep the consumer for the message asking permission. This should then reduce consumers disputing debits (which they often do to “manage” their cash flow). A lot of debits are getting disputed each month. This is even true of consumers under debt review who either do not recognise the debit from their PDA or who dispute the debit simply to get funds back to use (until the Debt Counsellor or PDA or credit providers begin to ask why the payment was reversed and not made. This normally leads to consumers having their creditors upset with them and the process falling apart. PASA have found that around 90% of all disputes by consumers are actually not legitimate a

 

Can’t Make It? Call In

ismael treasuryMr Ismael Momoniat of the National treasury was also unable to attend due to obligations at Parliament in Cape Town to do with the Twin Peaks process. Fortunately he obviously viewed the opportunity to talk to so many Debt Counsellors at one time too important to miss and was able to make his presentation via telephone tie in (without visuals). While it was great to hear about how important the Treasury view consumer education and assurance of consumer rights several of the statements made had a ring to them that as somewhat concerning. At first his speech focused on things like the improved affordability assessment guidelines and other steps taken to try help consumers avoid a debt trap. He discussed how treasury would like to see and end to pay day loans and how many other countries had either limited or outright banned these loans. He discussed how credit providers in SA were not making the kind of realistic concessions made elsewhere int he world in regard to writing off some of their clients debts.

The tone then changed somewhat as the speech neared it’s end as he began to discuss how there was concern that such a small number of Debt Counsellors could ever hope to deal with the issues of millions of debt troubled SA consumers. He also made several comments which seemed to indicate that he was very concerned about abuses by Debt Counsellors of the process to reduce work for themselves at the expense of getting the best deal for the client. Another focus of several of his statements was that consumers needed to be treated well by Debt Counsellors (which gave the impression that perhaps the NCR have been reporting to them mainly about complaints they are dealing with as opposed to the successes of the industry). The regulator also came under fire when he said that:”…[there was a] need to be regulated differently perhaps.” Looking ahead to the future of the industry he said treasury are looking to see how Debt Counsellors can be more effective and how they can treat consumers fairly. He also bemoaned the failure of the VDMS project from a few years ago. This was a non court version of debt review which was tested using some large Debt Counselling firms, with leads from the banks and help of the PDAs and the freshly hatched DCRS programme. The process was halted by the NCR (after pressure from Debt Counsellors). His speech ended to a warm round of applause but left many somewhat concerned with the Treasury’s view of the industry.

picVarious companies and credit providers (like Consumer Friend shown here) displayed and engaged with the attendees throughout the day. Debtfree were also at the conference handing out a few of the print copies of the magazine (we print every now and then – like the issue coming at the end of the year- ask your PDA for copies). We also took the chance to show attending Debt Counsellors how they can have the magazine for their clients on their websites.

Throughout the day there were tea breaks and a delicious buffet lunch which gave those attending yet another chance to chat. The event was not only well organised but well supported and all had a good time and benefited from attending.

{More on the conference in this month’s Debtfree DIGI]

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