It is almost impossible to believe that we are left with less than 30 days before this year is over. 2013 was a significant year in the South African credit industry with many changes taking place in the different spheres of our industry. Legislative changes in the form of the National Credit Amendment Bill, changes to industry codes, altering of jurisdictions and the proposed Removal of Adverse Credit Information Project will all certainly play a role in shaping the future of our industry going forward.
The deadline for submissions regarding the National Credit Amendment Bill was on 29 November and public hearings on the matter will take place from 28 to 30 January 2014.
On the home front, we had a number of noteworthy achievements in our office this year: we appointed our first Deputy Ombud, Reana Steyn; our expertise was sought by the Kenyan government with whom we shared best practice principles on setting up an Ombud Scheme in their country; we achieved record figures in saving consumers money this year, with a total of more than R3, 3 million handed back to consumers; and our office headed up work done by the Garnishee Order Task Team.
We opened a total of 5 099 disputes year to date, an increase of 13% when compared with the same period last year. We had a remarkable increase in the number of disputes closed, with 6 189 disputes closed year to date – this translates into a 51% increase when compared to the same period in 2012!
Our work to educate and inform consumers in the media produced a total Advertising Value Equivalent of more than R 22 million, with our reach, particularly in the radio field, extending into radio stations in all nine provinces this year.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my team for all their hard work and effort which makes this office achieve such great successes in the work that we do.
The change in approach to our consumer education has borne good fruit for our key stakeholders, our credit providers. Although in its infancy stage, the Double Impact training has been well accepted by credit providers’ staff – the Collections and Services Teams at Edcon recently benefited from our training and we have received good reviews from their teams on the quality and depth of information shared with them during the training sessions. We are in talks with other credit providers who have taken an interest in the training, and wish to encourage all to take advantage of this free value-added service that we offer to our stakeholders.
Our Memorandum of Understanding with the National Credit Regulator (NCR) is in full swing and our first meeting took place mid-October. We have agreed to train NCR call centre and complaints staff on our processes and jurisdiction. We look forward to partnering with the NCR and collaborating with them on other future projects.
2014 will be a momentous year for our office as we celebrate 10 years of contributing to the growth of the credit industry and changing lives of consumers by providing them with a helping hand in times of need. Our office has already started planning ways of delivering increased value to all our stakeholders in the coming year and look forward to playing a contributing role in the growth of the credit industry.
It is become an accepted principle all over the world that governments, financial businesses as well as consumers benefit if consumers have confidence in the financial markets. One of the key factors in increasing consumer confidence is to provide accessible and user-friendly arrangements to resolve disputes. This has been the founding principle of our office and we believe that our value can be demonstrated through the following outcomes:
- Consumers will have greater confidence in financial services if they know that, if anything goes wrong, they will be able to take their dispute to an independent body that will resolve the issue quickly and informally, without the consumer needing a lawyer;
- Business will benefit because consumers are more likely to enter into the financial agreements; the costs of resolving disputes with consumers are kept to a minimum and unscrupulous competitors who act unlawfully are held to account;
- The state and regulators benefit because redress for individual complaints are taken care of at a minimum cost; feedback can help improve future regulation; and confident consumers are more likely to play their part in helping develop a healthy credit market.
Ombudsmen also fulfil a wider role than the courts. Like the courts, we resolve individual complaints, but what is unique to Ombud schemes, is that we also deal with consumer enquiries and proactively address issues, with a view to improving the credit market for the future. We firmly believe that the value of our services in resolving consumer disputes have been accessible, affordable, fair, efficient and accountable. We are working hard on improving our service to stakeholders even more going forward.
As we bid farewell to 2013, I wish you and your loved ones a blessed and safe festive season and look forward to engaging and working with you again in the new year.
Manie van Schalkwyk