The NCR Consumer Workshop About Debt Counselling
Workshop for Consumers
In November 2023 the National Credit Regulator held an online workshop for consumers about debt counselling.
Over 230 consumers attended the online workshop hosted by the National Credit Regulator (NCR).
After welcoming everyone and explaining the purpose of the workshop the guests had the concept of over indebtedness explained (in terms of the National Credit Act).
There was also a discussion about how overindebtedness and having too much debt, which you cannot repay, effects you at work and at home.
Consumers were encouraged to look on the NCR’s website database of Debt Counsellors. The NCR then encouraged consumers to go to a local Debt Counsellor and sit with them to discuss the process. They were also encouraged to ask how the process works and how the fees work.
Next consumers received various warnings about misleading advertising.
The difference between debt consolidation (offered by credit providers) and debt counselling (offered by Debt Counsellors) was explained. Misleading adverts sometimes purposefully leave out the words debt counselling or debt review and instead mention consolidating debt.
The advert above also talks about 36 months implying that is how long it will take, when each persons situation is unique.
Several examples of misleading wording in adverts were shared during the session=.
One example was an advert saying:
‘NCR is giving South Africans Extra Cash to enjoy, by reducing debt interest and protection from repossession of assets.’
Many times adverts make promises of reduced payments, writing off debt or guaranteeing reduced interest. Some make claims or imply that the government are involved in providing these service.
Here are a few examples that consumers were warned about:
Next, consumers were warned not to hand out their ID address to websites.
Some website (of Debt Counsellors) talk about loans. This is misleading since Debt Counsellors cannot operate as a credit provider or source loans.
This did concern some consumers as they asked about entering their ID info into credit bureau websites or these sites that allow you to get a free credit report.
Consumers were encouraged to check their credit reports regularly for accounts or debts they do not recognise.
Some sites or adverts talk about sequestration but are actually aimed at debt counselling and debt review (see below).
Some consumers who are busy in the debt review process get scammed into trying to leave debt review before they have paid off their debts (see below).
The NCR Complaints Department then revealed some of the common complaints that consumers have.
The majority of their time is spent dealing with consumers who contact them and say they do not understand why they are flagged at the credit bureaus as under debt review (see pie chart below).
Some consumers made these comments (below) about finding themselves in debt review when they did not realise they were signing up:
Some consumers have actually signed up but fell out the process or stopped paying but others were very confused about what they were agreeing to or did not read documentation they were sent.
Consumers were reminded that they can just say “no” to debt review. They should not feel pressured to sign anything or give personal details to anyone.
The NCR also explained that they do not have the power just to remove someone from debt review (or remove the credit bureau note about being under debt review).
During the question and answer session it was acknowledged that some rogue elements (found in all industries) and scammers will not listen to the law. This is why consumers must exercise caution.
Especially if anyone says they have been “sent by the NCR“, are “are working for the NCR“, “have been asked by the NCR to contact them” consumers must be careful.
There was also a brief discussion about how to get the credit bureau flag removed if you started debt review but did not carry on. This is done by paying off the debt and providing the paid up letters to a Debt Counsellor who can issue a clearance certificate.
Credit providers adding massive legal collections costs to small debts was a “hot” topic and so was a discussion about NCA Section 103(5) and common law in duplum. The NCR say that legal collection fees do not form part of the induplum or Section 103(5) limits.
Consumers were encouraged to do research on these topics.
Consumers were also encouraged to report bad debt collectors to the council for debt collectors.
An Interesting Session
The session was well attended and the information was interesting. There were many warnings for consumers how to avoid scams or be mislead by advertising.
Unfortunately, one of the things that did seem to be missing was a step by step discussion about how debt review or debt counselling works.