Note from the Ombud

The second quarter passed by as quickly as it came around! Our office has been hard at work in the past few months, especially during the month of April, dealing with a total increase of about 61% in complaints and enquiries lodged with this office when compared to the same period in 2013. The call centre also dealt with just over 9 000 calls, an increase of about 49% when compared to the same period last year.

These huge increases can mostly be attributed to the fact that we received a high volume of calls and enquiries as a result of the kick-off of the much anticipated Removal of Adverse Consumer Credit Information (RACCI) project on 1 April 2014. We were inundated with calls from consumers requesting their credit reports, as well as wanting to know if they qualify in order to benefit from RACCI. The Credit Information Department also experienced a surge in the number of complaints and queries from consumers relating to information on their payment profile lines. This goes hand in hand with the fact that consumers had the misconception that all of their negative information would be removed as a result of RACCI. Our office will continue with educating consumers on credit profiles in order to bring an understanding on such matters.

The credit landscape has been filled with the publishing of many new laws, regulations and requirements over the last few months which will come into effect in the very near future. The National Credit Amendment Act was signed into law by the president on 20 May 2014 and we anticipate its promulgation in the coming weeks. Some of the highlights in the act are those of issues relating to the early removal of credit information where paid up defaults are concerned, affordability assessment regulations, as well as the banning of collection or selling of prescribed debts. Once this act comes into effect it will definitely change the manner in which the credit industry grants and collects debt.

Our office has also had to gear itself up for the effect the changes in legislation will have on our operation. One of the requirements of the National Credit Amendment Act is that all Alternative Dispute Resolution Agents need to apply for registration and accreditation with the National Credit Regulator. We will apply once the act comes into effect and the processes around the requirements for registration are published.

These legislative changes have had the compliance arm of our organisation hard at work in order to ensure that our office will factor these requirements into our business processes going forward.

As part of streamlining our operation, various council sub-committees, established by the Credit Ombud Council, all held their first meetings to decide and agree on a work plan for the year for each sub-committee. These committees gave feedback on their plans at our last board meeting held in June 2014. These sub-committees include the Executive Committee; Human Resources and Remuneration Committee; Corporate Governance Committee and the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee.

Our office has also for the first time in its history introduced a Consumer Satisfaction Survey which aims to firstly rate our service to consumers and secondly ascertain if consumers are willing to refer others to make use of the services of the Credit Ombud. The results of the first survey were indeed pleasing with our office achieving a customer satisfaction level of 76.2% and a referral rate of 84%. This is one of the ways in which we are committed to ensuring that we offer excellent service levels to all our stakeholders.

We have recently finalised our Annual Report for the 2013 financial year and this will be made available on our website and emailed to you our valued stakeholders in the very near future.

Our office was bestowed the honour of being awarded the ADRA Clive Morkel Award of Excellence. This award is presented to a company or individual who has made a considerable contribution to the debt collection industry or ADRA in the previous year and I was humbled to receive this award, which I dedicate to everyone in our office as it is through their hard work and efforts that we were able to make an impact in the debt collection industry.

This recognition is encouraging and shows that the work we do within the credit industry goes a long way.

Our consumer education efforts have been gaining momentum as the year continues and the Double Impact training which we offer free of charge to our members has been very well received. We urge all our members to make use of the value-added service to simultaneously enhance their operations and empower their employees.

Our media activities achieved record figures this quarter, with our Advertising Value Equivalent already peaking at R17 million year-to-date. Our Public Relations arm has been highly involved in educating and informing the public, especially with regards to RACCI during the past few months.

We once again took part in the Take a Girl Child to Work Day programme on 29 May and had the pleasure of hosting 10 dynamic girls from Sekolo Sa Borogo which is based in Randburg. The value which comes from being a part of shaping the lives of our youth is immeasurable and we enjoyed introducing these young ladies to the credit industry as we ushered in Youth Month in June.

We have many projects lined up for the coming quarter and will no doubt be hard at work over the coming months in order to ensure that we continue to deliver value to all our stakeholders.

Best wishes,
Manie van Schalkwyk