Note from the Ombud

The year has been off to a quick start and we have already gotten stuck into 2014. We have reason to believe that this year will be another significant year in shaping the credit industry. I am proud to announce that this year our office celebrates a momentous 10 years of assisting consumers across the South African landscape!

The office started off as a small 3-man office-run operation and has grown to a staff contingent of 22, touching the lives of thousands of consumers each year. We would like to thank our valued stakeholders for partnering with us and helping to realise our vision for this office. Our office has seen many significant moments over the past 10 years, especially the value that we bring to our members and to their customers.

The beginning of this year brought about the presentations, deliberations and finally the passing of the National Credit Amendment Bill. We have already started dealing with queries from consumers seeking clarity on the much anticipated rollout of the Removal of Adverse Credit Information Project on1 April 2014.

Our office performed well in 2013 and saw a 6.7% increase in the number of disputes opened for the year, with a total of 5 878 disputes opened. We closed a total of 7 164 disputes during last year, an increase of 39.4% as compared to the same period last year. On average it took 48 days to resolve complaints.

Calls through to the call centre also increased by almost 12% as compared to the previous year, with the call centre handling nearly 24 000 calls for the year.

We achieved an all-time record of R3.8 million in savings for consumers in 2013! This is money that was calculated using the amounts written off, as well as refunds where consumers had paid over more than the amount payable on their accounts.

Our efforts to spread the word on the work our office does produced an Advertising Value Equivalent of just over R24 million last year. One great plus for 2013 relating to our media exposure is that we have spread our footprint in broadcast media, tapping into previously untapped stations in both community and national radio stations.

Our team in the training department has been hard at work with the rollout of the Double Impact training. Many more of our credit providers have taken up the opportunity of this free training and have found much value by affording their staff members the opportunity of attending the training. The months of March and April already have bookings confirmed and we look forward to engaging our credit providers’ staff members, sharing valuable knowledge with them. More aptly so in March as we are currently celebrating Consumer Rights Month in South Africa, with World Consumer Rights Day being celebrated on 15 March 2014.

This year’s theme is ‘Consumers in the Digital Age’ and we have partnered with various stakeholders in order to commemorate consumer rights in our country.

We have partnered on a ‘Know your Status’ campaign with the National Credit Regulator and will visit 5 provinces during the course of the month on an outreach programme to encourage consumers to access their credit records.

Our office has also teamed up with Black Sash on an education campaign for Community Development Workers, as well as with the North West Provinces’ Consumer Affairs office where we will be conducting workshops in various districts to educate public sector employees in those districts.

Our outreach partnership with Mirco Finance South Africa (MFSA) still continues this year, with our office reaching out to MFSA members virtually through innovative, recorded presentations as part of the MFSA’s 2014 road show – the culmination of which will be in Midrand on 26 March.

We look forward to a fruitful year and making a marked difference, together with our partners and stakeholders, to the South African credit landscape.

Best wishes,
Manie van Schalkwyk