South African Consumer Debt: Where can you go for Help?

The consumer debt problem in South Africa has been well publicised over the last year or two. To give you a quick snapshot, statistics from the National Credit Regulator show that there are currently 25 million people with active credit records in SA, 10 million of which are in severe arrears.

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On the face of it, with a debt to income ratio of 74 percent, compared to the UK ratio of 145 percent, the situation in South Africa looks relatively healthy. However, the difference is that in the UK, the bulk of that debt is tied up in bricks and mortar, while in South Africa, it’s unsecured and expensive short-term debts which are the really big boom.

With debt such a big part of the lives of many South Africans, it’s important to know where you can go for help. In this guide, we’re going to look at a few of the organisations you can turn to when you are experiencing problems with different aspects of your finances.

National Credit Regulator (NCR)

The NCR is the organisation responsible for regulating South Africa’s credit industry. As well as research and policy development, it is also responsible for educating consumers, investigating complaints and ensuring the enforcement of the National Credit Act.

At the NCR, you can lodge a complaint against any type of lender, a credit bureau or a debt counsellor and the NCR will handle the dispute on your behalf. If you want to be declared over-indebted, you can also apply to a debt counsellor.

You can email your complaints to complaints@ncr.org.za or call 086-062-7627.

Ombudsman for Banking Services

If you are not happy with the service you have received from your bank and the bank has not resolved your complaint satisfactorily, you should approach the Ombudsman for Banking Services. It is their job to provide a free, independent and informal dispute resolution service. To lodge your complaint you will need a complaint reference number from your bank and copies of the correspondence you have to date.

Call 011-712-1800 or email: info@obssa.co.za to get in touch with the Ombudsman for Banking Service.

Micro Finance Regulatory Council

If you have any issues with those operating in the micro-lending industry, which basically means cash loan providers like Wonga, this not-for-profit organisation has been set up to protect your interests.

You can call the MFRC on 0116 474 400, email info@mfrc.co.za or find a wealth of resources on its website.

Credit issues

Issues with your credit rating and the information credit reference agencies hold about you can cause and exacerbate existing debt problems. It is not particularly unusual for there to be mistakes on your credit record which can affect the availability of debt and the amount it’s likely to cost. The National Credit Act entitles you to access your credit report for free each year at Experian or TransUnion. If you spot any inaccuracies, you can ask for those to be corrected and the agency should be able to resolve your problem.

If you have issues that cannot be resolved by the credit rating agencies, the Credit Information Ombud should be your next port of call. This voluntary association works to resolve complaints about credit information on behalf of private consumers and businesses.

Call 086-166-2837 or email: ombud@creditombud.org.za.

 

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