The controversial National Credit Amendment Bill was signed into law last week. It provides for special debt relief measures for over-indebted consumers who earn R7 500 per month or less and whose unsecured debt does not exceed R50 000. These changes were intended to address instances where poor consumers are unable to access formal debt-relief processes.
The Amendment Act allows for a process whereby the individual can apply to the National Credit Regulator for intervention, without undergoing the full debt assessment process by engaging with creditors with the assistance of the a debt counsellor and subsequent application to court for approval of a debt restructuring plan. At the Regulator, a process of interventions will allow these consumers to restructure their debt to make repayments over a five year period, or to suspend credit payments in part or in full for up to two years. Finally the debt or a portion thereof can be extinguished if, after this period, the consumer is still unable to repay it.
The Banking Association South Africa (BASA) and other credit industry role players have raised a host of concerns, stemming from the fact that the law was passed without Parliament’s consideration of a socioeconomic impact assessment study conducted by BASA with the Department of Trade and Industry, or the contents of a petition submitted by the industry. These communications attempted to inform Parliament that, amongst other things:
|•||consumers earning less than R7 500 are likely to be prejudiced as credit providers now have to identify this group as a risk, thereby doing away with sophisticated, individualised scorecards which would otherwise ordinarily have allowed them access to credit;|
|•||allowing the Regulator to expunge debt creates significant uncertainty for credit providers and this uncertainty is exacerbated by the fact that the Minister is empowered to adjust the gross monthly income and total unsecured debt thresholds currently listed;|
|•||the exclusion of ordinary, problematic debt that these consumers face (eg, municipal fees, water and electricity, school fees) should be investigated; and|
|•||that the Act creates inequality among consumers, in that a small number only will gain access to this favourable debt intervention solution.|
BASA and others are considering approaching the courts to declare on the validity of the new Act and we will keep you updated of progress in this regard.
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