28 November 2012
September 1, 2006
By Charlene Clayton
The National Credit Regulator (NCR) is well equipped to ensure that credit providers comply with the National Credit Act (NCA), as well as to educate consumers of their rights in terms of the Act, Gabriel Davel, the chief executive of the NCR, says.
From June 1 this year, when certain provisions of the Act came into force, all credit providers had to register with the office of the NCR, Davel said at the official inauguration of the NCR this week.
He says his office has received 3 500 applications, of which 3 169 have been temporarily registered.
Davel says while it is too early to comment on any prosecutions in terms of the NCA, the Micro Finance Regulatory Council (MFRC) – for which he and many of his staff worked before joining the the NCR – conducted more than 1 300 investigations into abuses by microlenders. More than one third of these microlenders were fined, while the other cases were settled after negotiations. The MFRC appeared in the High Court about five times and once in the Constitutional Court, and it lost only one court case, Davel says.
South Africa is one of three or four countries in the world to have enacted legislation on debt counselling and reckless lending, he says.
The NCA also provides mechanisms to deal with situations where a person has taken on too much debt and cannot pay for his or her households expenses. These mechanisms include delaying some of the debt and reducing some of the debt.
At the same time, the Act states that a consumer whose debt is being restructured cannot take on new debt until all the restructured debt has been repaid.
The Act also differentiates between credit providers who grant credit when a person is solvent and those who gave loans when a person is already over-indebted.
Davel says a project is under way to make sure sufficient debt counsellors are in place on June 1 next year, when the Act’s provisions on debt counselling come into effect.
Currently, there is no provision to provide assistance to South Africans who are over-indebted, and consequently, Davel says, he expects a flood of people seeking help.
The NCR will make every effort to educate consumers on their new rights under the Act, he says.
Davel praised financial services companies that provided input during the process of getting the legislation off the ground, and especially the constructive approach of the banking industry towards the Act.
What the National Credit Act means for you
The key features of the National Credit Act are:
• Language in credit agreements must be simple and understandable.
• Quotes must be given on all credit agreements and are binding for five business days.
• Credit sales at your home and place of work are strictly limited.
• If your application for credit is declined, you must be provided with the reasons.
• Automatic increases in credit limits are regulated.
• Reckless lending (where you are given more credit than you can afford to repay) is prohibited.
• The level of interest rates and fees that can be charged on all credit agreements are regulated. For the first time, interest rates on microloans are now subject to maximums.
• Credit bureaus are regulated for the first time, and you have the right to receive your credit record for free once a year.
• Debt counselling is introduced to enable the debts of consumers who are over-indebted to be restructured.
Although the National Credit Act came into effect on June 1 this year, certain sections will be implemented later to allow the industry and the regulator to put the necessary systems and procedures in place.
From June 1, 2006:
• The National Credit Regulator (NCR) was established;
• All providers of credit and
credit bureaus were obliged to register with the NCR within 40 working days of June 1; and
• Debt counsellors must register before June 1 next year.
From June 1, 2007:
• Various provisions relating to the way credit bureaus collect and disseminate information about your paying habits become effective;
• Measures relating to disclosure, limits on interest and fees, reckless lending and related compliance requirements come into effect; and
• The sections on debt counselling and restructuring become effective.
The National Credit Act covers:
• Loans and other forms of credit from banks;
• Finance for furniture, clothing accounts and any other type of credit from retailers;
• Micro loans and pawn transactions; and
• Any other type of credit or loans to consumers.
Gabriel Davel is the chief executive of the office of the National Credit Regulator.
Call centre: 0860 627 627 (credit transactions) or 0860 100 406 (micro-loans)
Fax: (011) 484 6122
Postal address: PO Box 2694, Houghton, 2041
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com