Note from the Ombud

2013 started on a high note and our office has been engaged in numerous activities taking place within the industry.  We performed well in 2012, opening a total of 5 506 disputes, which is an increase of 14% compared to the previous year. We also enjoyed a total media advertising value equivalent of R25,1 million, which is an increase of 55% compared to the previous year.  We are set on improving our performance in 2013 and give even better value to our stakeholders.

One of the projects we are involved with this year is regarding Emoluments Attachment Orders (EAOs). The Credit Ombud is heading a task team which was established to investigate current practices around EAOs.  The debate brought about by the Joint Credit and Over-Indebtedness Summit, which we hosted with the NDMA late last year, contributed to the establishment of the task team. It is encouraging to see that the effort we place into engaging and enlightening our stakeholders has sparked reaction in the industry.  This kind of healthy debate and action are needed for the betterment of our industry as a whole.

Objectives are the task team include:

  • Identifying the primary areas of abuse within the EAO environment
  • Developing a Code of Conduct for all stakeholders who play a role with EAOs to ensure that the abuse is eradicated
  • Proposing common standards and procedures which would facilitate the effective management of EAOs
  • Establishing a mechanism to implement the Code of Conduct and to ensure that all stakeholders are adhering to the Code of Conduct
  • Establishing a mechanism through which disputes in relation to specific cases can be resolved
  • Investigating alternatives to EAOs for the effective collecting of outstanding debt and to eliminate costly legal processes
  • Providing regular information through circulars or similar mechanisms to all stakeholders including the media
  • Establishing a reliable database to capture all EAOs
  • Investigating possible legislative changes to address the current abuse in the system
  • Promoting education in terms of rights and responsibilities relating to EAOs
  • Investigating remedies or solutions to resolve current EAO abuse

We share with you the opinion of Charlotte van Sittert from the Law Clinic at the University of Pretoria for some insights on the valuable research that they performed regarding Emolument Attachment Orders.

This year, talks around the proposed credit information amnesty have continued at parliamentary level, with some industry members continuing to voice their opinion on the matter to government. In one of the possible proposals that have been tabled, the Department of Trade and Industry at the end of last month proposed that the amnesty apply to consumers who earn less than R15 000 per month and have debt of no more than R10 000, citing that removing their negative information will serve to stimulate economic growth and job creation.  We will continue to keep an eye on the proposed credit information amnesty and make necessary submissions as required.  In the meantime we will share some opinions from expert stakeholders.  Please see Darrell Beghin’s take on the Credit Information Amnesty.

On 15 March we celebrated World Consumer Rights Day and this year the theme was Consumer Justice Now.  We partnered with various stakeholders, including Consumer Protection Offices in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN, to commemorate the day.  A big part of the work our office does is around consumer education, as it is key that consumers know their rights and know where to turn to when they have disputes.

Our office is faced with many exciting projects this year.  We hope that through our involvement in various initiatives, we will be able to bring added value to you as our stakeholders and improve our industry as a whole.

Best wishes,
Manie van Schalkwyk