“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
Never did we imagine that there would be a year like 2020, where we would have to fight against an invisible enemy that took over our lives in within a short space of time. It seemed that the world had succumbed to the disaster brought upon us by COVID-19 and efforts to try to stop the virus from spreading were met with resounding resistance because we continued to lose loved ones and our livelihoods.
Many industries saw a decline in profits and as a result had to close their doors. The Credit Ombud had its fair share of challenges with the COVID pandemic and though we still have our ‘doors open’, we saw a decrease of 45% in complaints and enquiries that came through the call center. This resulted in a chain reaction on our statistics as we saw a drop of 29% in the number of disputes opened and a 37% decrease in the number of disputes closed. The drop in numbers may be the result of 2020 being the first full year in which we no longer assisted consumers with credit bureau information relating to banking queries, and with non-member complaints being referred to the National Credit Regulator (NCR).
We continued to soldier on and remained positive, enforcing fairness in credit and credit bureaux matters. The office is pleased to report that results from the consumer satisfaction survey indicated that consumers rate their level of satisfaction at 85% and we also scored 90% for referrals, i.e., consumers who said they would refer someone else to our office. Despite the challenges experienced, we have saved consumers an amount of R 3,438,077.51 – this is monies that went back into consumers’ pockets. This amount is calculated by adding all the amounts where consumers overpaid or where we found some breach of the law which entitled the consumer to a refund or recalculation of their amounts owed. In these difficult times, every penny counts.
We are grateful for the constant support of the media and can report coverage in online, print and broadcast media to the Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) of R 32,858,153.22.
Consumer education remains part of our core function as an organization and when we could not convey our message to consumers through face-to- face awareness campaigns because of COVID-19, we were supported by the media to take our message to consumers who may have found themselves in distress due to matters pertaining to their credit agreements and credit bureaux listings.
The most common non-bank credit cases dealt with by the Credit Ombud ranged from disputes regarding consumers’ statements of account, fraud and prescription of debt. Many cases resulted in balances being written off, refunds being facilitated or assisting consumers to enter payment arrangements. Some of the most common disputes relating to credit information cases include insufficient or incomplete credit information at the credit bureaux, prescription, outdated credit information as well as fraud. The office resolved more than 60% of the disputes in consumers’ favour, signaling that consumers’ complaints were fully or partially upheld.
The Credit Ombud office is grateful to all our stakeholders. It is because of your support that we continue on this journey, and we find courage in knowing that the office is assisting with resolving disputes effectively and efficiently between consumers and the credit industry. To our members we say, thank you for trusting us with the task to assist your consumers. The doors of the Credit Ombud remain open because of the confidence you have in our capable and professional staff.