DCs Need To Renew Their NCR Registration
Debt Counsellors were shocked last year when they found out that the would have to pay a considerable amount more for their annual renewal of registration with the National Credit Regulator (NCR) to offer debt review services. Where in the past, they had paid R100 each year, this figure shot up to R500 per Debt Counsellor and an additional amount per branch they operate.
‘Each year Debt Counsellors are asked to pay a renewal fee’
Each year Debt Counsellors are asked to pay a renewal fee and the NCR update their database of who has paid or not. Over time there have been more and more Debt Counsellors who have left the industry due to the fact that it is not a profitable business (fees have remained very low for a number of years without any increase). Around 273 Debt Counsellors have voluntarily cancelled their registration leaving fewer people to help consumers in trouble.
Currently the NCR are investigating changing the Debt Review fee structure.
NCT Cancelled Registration
Over time the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) has deregistered 20 different Debt Counsellors for various reasons all at the request of the NCR. For the most part, the industry and Debt Counselling community have been glad about these deregistrations as they have helped protect consumers from predatory practices by some.
1270 Debt Counsellors Registration Have Lapsed
The NCR show over 1270 DCs who have had their registration declared no longer valid by the NCR and shown as ‘lapsed‘. No individual reasons are shown on the NCRs site about why each of the Debt Counsellor’s registration have lapsed. This is a significant amount of people in an industry with less than 3000 people who have ever done the exam to qualify.
Some of those Debt Counsellors who show as ‘lapsed’ say they have paid renewal fees and want to practice. They have lodged complaints with the NCR over the listing. Other Debt Counsellors say they mistakenly short paid their renewal fees and when they found out they had been listed as ‘lapsed’ contacted the NCR and were told it was not possible to pay the shortfall amount (in one case R200) after the grace period expires.
Since these Debt Counsellors cannot get their income in fees paid to them by the 3 NCR registered Payment Distribution Agencies (PDAs) some have had to close their doors leaving consumers stranded. Others say the NCR has taken their clients from them and transferred them to other firms.
Pay that Extra R250 or else…
Debt Counsellors are reminded that regardless if they operate from a home office or a separate property or even a mobile office they need to make payment for one ‘branch’ as the NCR see your primary office as a ‘branch’. It is a little confusing and not very well explained in the terminology of the registration fee circular.
As seen with other short payments by some Debt Counsellors, if a Debt Counsellor were to miss out this R250 exta payment (So R750 minimum) the NCR will potentially issue instructions to the various PDAs to withhold payments to the Debt Counsellors business of their fees paid by consumers. The NCR will then potentially go even further and can move all the Debt Counsellors clients to another Debt Counsellor (this has been done already so, watch out).
‘New registrations have a reputation of taking a very long time’
The NCR say that if you fail to pay the renewal fee during the allowed time they will allow the Debt Counsellor to apply for a totally new registration. New registrations have a reputation of taking a very long time however. This can see the Debt Counsellor unable to receive income for many months with no guarantee of being registered swiftly.
NCR Don’t Seem To Like Branches
It is interesting that the NCR make specific allowance for Debt Counsellors to pay a branch fee for each branch they may operate and yet recently the NCR have taken a Debt Counsellor (or two) to the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) for matters where a Debt Counsellor was not personally on the property when a consumer came to the office. In one ruling the NCR asked the NCT to deregister the Debt Counsellor because the consumer became confused and thought one of the staff was a Debt Counsellor (The NCT refused to deregister the Debt Counsellor).
It is a bit of a mixed message since the NCR specifically say that a Debt Counsellor can have branches and yet are then (in certain circumstances) turning around and potentially trying to have the Debt Counsellor punished for this.
Debt Counsellors are reminded to make their payment or to face harsh consequences.