This year the debt review process has received a lot of attention. Debt Counsellors reported that high numbers of consumers were entering the process right from January. The repo rate began it’s upward trend and household costs shot up placing many consumers under added pressure.
Throughout the year large creditors such as FNB and Nedbank held workshops across SA in an effort to find common ground with Debt Counsellors and better define their preferred processes. The Debt Review industry had it’s first Awards program and gala event mid year with the Debt Review Awards which recognized Credit Providers, Payment Distribution Agencies and Debt Counsellors of various sizes across the country. [Debtfree was involved and helped organize the event. A special thanks again to all sponsors and parties who helped make the event a success].
Amendments to the National Credit Act which were brewing in 2013 took giant leaps forward and eventually were published in the Government Gazette this year. The amendments which will stop credit providers from ignoring the debt review process and make it punishable to try collect on very old debt are a massive push in the favor of debt review. Though many vital issues never got a mention in the amendments, regulations from the DTI are being finalized and these too could see further clarifications and improvements in the process.
The NCR continued it’s fight for recognition within the future planned Twin Peaks regulation model and made the press several times throughout the year. Mostly so in regard to compliance notices issued against smaller credit providers. They received a lot of heat in the wake of the overnight shares collapse of African Bank. Though quiet, for the moment, some political parties are still pushing the matter. In the middle of the whole debacle stood a webportal about debt and the founder a debt Counsellor Deborah Solomon. Deborah is seen, by many, as the voice of independent Debt Counsellors who do not belong to an association. The NCR are now trying to get her deregistered as a Debt Counsellor because of media statements theDCI issued about African Bank’s collapse and the NCR. The matter is not yet resolved and ticks over into 2015, bringing a slight sour note to an otherwise very positive year for the debt review industry and NCR.
Most creditors and Debt Counsellor associations are happy with the progress achieved at the Credit Industry Forum (an advisory committee to the NCR about debt review). Though still short on relevant consumer representation the forum has facilitated a lot of discussion on vital topics within the industry. So far the NCR have not done much with the CIF’s proposals but it looks like 2015 will be an interesting year ahead as the NCR may now begin to issue guidelines based on some of the suggestions. Sadly the NCR has struggled to source a lot of feedback from independent Debt Counsellors, particularly in the wake of turning on Deborah Solomon founder of the www.thedci.co.za web portal, which was for many unaligned DCs a meeting point and voice. They may face a retaliatory wave of opposition to any issued guidelines from this part of the industry. Time will tell if the NCR’s actions will frighten DCs from taking a stand on any such topics.
The courts too saw a lot of action in 2014. Sadly some courts (particularly in Gauteng) have made it more expensive and harder for struggling consumers to make responsible debt review plans. A few courts, unbelievably so many years after the NCA’s inception, are still trying to dodge the whole process. At the same time many other courts began to take firm steps in countering reckless credit and have begun holding credit providers, wanting EAOs and Summary judgments, to a much higher standard. This is undoubtedly helping balance the needs of lone consumers taking on giant corporations.
Late in the year the topic of Debt Mediation (debt review without that pesky NCA) reared it’s head and the NCR once again took shots at the process and want to stop it in it’s tracks. This seems contrary to what many large credit providers want however. The battle of wills between BASA and the National Treasury vs the NCR will no doubt continue on into next year.
While looking at all these important developments is good to remember that throughout the year, thousands and thousands of consumers made reasonable plans to repay their debt to cash strapped credit providers. The process also saw more people than ever receive a clearance certificate and finish paying off their debt and reenter the credit market. Debt review continues to work. Looking back it was an interesting year and bodes well for 2015, even if the economy does not.