We have been faced with many developments in the past quarter, both within our office as well as in the industry in general. From a performance point of view, we have already logged 3 253 complaints and enquiries and opened 1 849 disputes this year, which is an increase of 13% when compared to this time the previous year. A big achievement this quarter is that we have already recovered R1,3 million for consumers, which places us in a good position to outdo our achievement of a total of R1,9 million recovered in 2012.
The credit industry as a whole and our office in particular have had to endure great changes in the past weeks. We have seen the withdrawal of industry codes of conduct, a proposed credit information amnesty, the planned introduction of guidelines for affordability assessments, and the tabling of the National Credit Amendment Bill and Draft National Credit Act Policy Review Framework.
The withdrawal of the industry codes of conduct by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) has a major impact on how things will run in the industry going forward. We have engaged the NCR on this matter and have come to an agreement on several issues, one of which is that our office will no longer be working on debt counselling disputes. I am currently in the process of drawing up a proposal on how best to handle the transition of migrating our debt counselling work to the NCR, as well as the completion of work on current debt counselling cases.
All stakeholders need to be aware that our work in the Credit Information as well as Non-bank Credit areas will continue as normal. This is also confirmed by a public notice issued by the NCR on 16 June 2013, which states: “The NCR acknowledges the role of the Credit Ombud in complaints resolution as defined in the Act and that (the) Credit Ombud will continue to receive complaints relating to credit bureau information against credit providers.”
We have released our annual report for the past financial year. You can find a copy thereof by following this link: Annual Reports
The Emolument Attachment Order Task Team has made tremendous progress and should finalise their work by the end of June. They will present a recommended Code of Conduct to the National Treasury.
As we have reported in previous newsletters, we have decided to change our consumer education strategy to focus primarily on employee training. The Credit Ombud has developed a new education strategy − dubbed the ‘Double Impact’ programme − targeted at credit-active consumers, which will be implemented over the next three to four years.
Instead of targeting groups of consumers directly, we intend expanding the implementation of the Double Impact workshop to a new target audience: the employees of credit providers and other Ombud affiliates. We will also be initiating a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ programme with selected Non-Profit Organisations, so that the trainers and community outreach facilitators employed by them can use the skills and materials developed by the Ombud to disseminate the information to their communities.
We are greatly looking forward to the rollout of this initiative and believe this will have the strongest impact of any consumer education we have conducted since inception.
As mentioned before, our office and the industry as a whole have been faced with many changes and challenges this year. I have no doubt that such robust interactions and developments, as we have had thus far, will inevitably lead to much stronger systems that will be beneficial to all role players within the industry, including consumers.
In this edition, we also share with you the viewpoint of the NCR on the proposed credit information amnesty, with a piece by Lesiba Mashapa, Company Secretary of the NCR, as part of our Expert Opinion section.
It gives me great pleasure to notify you that Reana Steyn has been appointed as Deputy Ombud of the Credit Ombud Association. The office of the Credit Ombud has grown over the past few years − not only in terms of staff compliment, but also in terms of responsibilities. Reana’s efforts and ability to assist in strategic and operational matters have been paramount in the success of this office. Reana was appointed by the Credit Ombud Council and the appointment is with immediate effect. This is a big responsibility and I have no doubt that she will be successful in fulfilling her role as Deputy Ombud.
Manie van Schalkwyk