National Credit Amendment Bill: Department response to public submissions & Legal Advisor, National Credit Regulator, National Consumer Tribunal, Prof Tregenna comments

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Trade, Industry and Competition

03 February 2014
Chairperson: Ms J Fubbs (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee had completed public hearings on the National Credit Amendment Bill and now heard input from the Parliamentary Legal Adviser, National Credit Regulator, National Consumer Tribunal and Prof Fiona Tregenna, and was also briefed on the preliminary responses of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), although it explained that some policy issues still had to be considered.

The Parliamentary Legal Advisor noted that one of the main issues concerned the difference between and the effect of an emoluments attachment order, and garnishee order. The question was whether banks, in the case of  default, could attach and sell property of a judgment debtor, and claim the shortfall, and whether such an action was legal. If the bank was the mortgage holder, this was possible, although section 66 of the Magistrate's Court Act  stated that immovable property subject to a preferent (mortgaged) claim could only be sold in execution if the proceeds of the sale were sufficient to satisfy the claim (or lesser agreed settlement figure) of the preferent creditor. The in duplum  rule, that did not allow interest to accrue past the amount of the principal debt, was explained, and the effect of section 103(5) of the National Credit Act was highlighted.  

The National Consumer Tribunal outlined its mandate, noted that it heard matters referred by the  National Credit Regulator and the National Consumer Commission, after a preliminary investigation that showed contravention of the National Credit Act or the National Consumer Protection Act. The Tribunal reviewed compliance notices of registered entities, as well as reviewed requests from consumers to privately prosecute, despite non-referral from the NCR. Most cases were to do with debt rearrangements by debt counsellors.

The National Consumer Regulator was responsible for creating access to the credit market, the registration of credit providers, credit bureaus and debt counsellors, enforcement of the Act, and the issuing of compliance notices for referral to the National Credit Tribunal. It was responsible for promoting consumer awareness on the  National Credit Act and conducting, and publishing, research on trends in the credit industry .

The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) touched on the main submissions, by category. It announced that the National Credit Act had made progress in promoting its key policy aims for a fair, transparent, competitive, sustainable, responsible, efficient, effective and accessible credit market.  The Act introduced initiatives to prevent reckless credit and a new debt counselling industry for debt restructuring for over-indebted consumers. However, there was a need to enhance some policies. It was noted that National Treasury and South African Reserve Bank questioned if the amendment would go far enough, called for coordination and cooperation amongst regulators and questioned whether amendments set tougher standards for payday lenders. It was explained how the Act would tie in with the Twin Peaks system of regulation, and that coordination between regulators, a point already in the Act, would be improved by the Bill. Dti noted that credit providers and industry associations had suggested that the proposed guidelines and Code of Conduct should not be part of conditions of registration and regulations. There were fears that the Bill would negatively impact affordable housing and would hamper e-commerce. It was suggested that the Code of Conduct should come from the industry and not be prescribed by the Minister. Dti responded that the guidelines aimed to address the known weaknesses, and an Industry Technical Committee was to finalise them by end February 2014, whilst the Minister must consult with the public. E-commerce, provided it observed the basic tenets of affordability, was supported. A further criticism against the Bill, by the credit providers, was that removal of adverse credit information would not enable them to assess consumers' history, and would eventually push up the costs of credit and restrict access to credit. Dti explained that only adverse information was to be removed, not payment profiles on monthly payments, and this would enable lenders to assess and price for risk.

Dti reported further that National Treasury, credit providers and industry associations said voluntary debt mediation should be introduced. Dti preferred that voluntary debt mediation should be regulated by the Act under the National Credit Regulator. Consumer protection measures should also be extended to consumers in voluntary debt mediation. The debt counselling industry had suggested, in its submissions, that the commission charged by payment distributing agencies detracted from the amount paid by consumers. Dti responded that the loose arrangement that these agencies had should be formalised in the Act, and the agencies regulated by the National Credit Regulator. Some issues raised by credit providers were already in the Act, particularly consumer protection against abusive practices, and government had stepped in to address gaps in the self-regulated industry. Dti conceded that the cost of credit and the interest and service cost caps needed to be reviewed, and the sometimes conflicting provisions to address abuse by debt collectors should be addressed. There had been much engagement with National Treasury on the Twin Peaks model, to address the gaps.  

The Committee focussed, during discussion, on the cost of credit and what could be done to reassess the interest rates as well as the costs associated with a credit agreements, and enquired if those costs could be capped by the NCR.  Cell phone marketing and the legalities of credit provider market conduct were discussed.  The punitive measures that were taken against reckless lenders, and the removal of adverse credit information was also raised, with a focus on the impact of the information that stayed on a consumer’s credit profile, and what the difference was between the current proposed removal of credit information and the credit amnesty of a few years back. Members also wondered if “contracts” that people involved in accidents ended up paying for, at hospitals or panel shops, could be covered. They questioned how a balance could be achieved between  protecting the currency and the mandate of the National Credit Act. They questioned what measures were put in place to recoup the money consumers lost due to fraudulent activities by debt collectors and debt counsellors. There was deliberation on the use of South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) cards to obtain credit, and whether grant income should be included in affordability assessments.

 

Meeting report

National Credit Amendment Bill:  Public Hearings: Input from commentators and responses from Department of Trade and Industry
The Chairperson said the submissions received on the National Credit Amendment Bill (the Bill) had been quite substantial, and she appreciated the work done by the Department of Trade and Industry (dti). She noted that input would be sought from other commentators, followed by the dti's response.

Parliamentary Legal Adviser Input
Adv Charmaine van der Merwe, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said her presentation (see attached document) dealt with general credit law principles, to provide a general background understanding to the Committee.

The Magistrate’s Courts Act of 1944 defined an emolument attachment order as an attachment of emoluments, at present or in future owed to or accrued to the judgment debtor, by or from his or her employer. A garnishee order was an attachment of any debt presently or in future owed or accrued to a judgment debtor.  The question was whether banks, on default, could attach and sell property of a judgment debtor, and claim the shortfall, and whether such an action was legal.  There was no evidence that such dealings were illegal if the bank was the mortgage holder, but section 66 of the Magistrate’s Courts Act stated that immovable property subject to a preferent (mortgaged) claim could only be sold in execution if the proceeds of the sale were sufficient to satisfy the claim of such preferent creditor in full, or if the preferent creditor agreed to accept the proceeds of the sale in full settlement of the claim.

Slide 7 showed the maximum interest rates for different loan or credit agreements.  The “in duplum” rule stated that interest could not exceed capital. This meant that the moment the amount of unpaid interest reached the same figure as the principal debt, interest stopped accruing. This did not, however, take into account any fees.  Section 103(5) of the National Credit Act (NCA) however stated that the amount accrued during the time that a consumer was in default under the credit agreement could not, in aggregate, exceed the unpaid balance of the principal debt under that credit agreement as at the time that the default occurred.  This meant that a R100 debt in default could not exceed R200 with interest or charges added. 

Slide 10 showed what an instalment consisted of, and noted that all the charges and interest charged in addition to the principal debt were prescribed by the National Credit Act.  Administration orders were granted when a debtor could not pay a judgment debt, and when the debtor did not have sufficient assets capable of attachment to satisfy the obligations. Legal fees, court fees and Administrator’s fees would be charged for such an order.

The Committee was advised to not align this Bill to other proposed regulations or guidelines unless there was a coordinated effort, or unless the dti had certainty that such regulations or guidelines would be adopted.  Slide 13 dealt with minor definitions and clarifications that should be considered for amendment.

National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) input
Ms Diane Terblanche, Chairperson National Consumer Tribunal, said the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT or the Tribunal) operated similarly to a court system, but was created through legislation in terms of section 66 of the National Credit Act.  The NCT heard matters referred by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) as well as the National Consumer Commission (NCC), after a preliminary investigation that showed contravention of the National Credit Act or the National Consumer Protection Act.  The Tribunal reviewed compliance notices of registered entities, as well as review requests from consumers to privately prosecute, despite non-referral from the NCR.  The bulk of the cases revolved around the debt rearrangement of consumers by debt counsellors and the NCT capacitated lawyers, economists, and experts in consumer related issues.  The average feedback turn around period for any party was 3.9 days, and the time taken for issuing of judgments from last day of adjudication were 28 days. 

National Credit Regulator (NCR) Input 
Ms Nomsa Motshegare, Chief Executive Officer, National Consumer Regulator, said the NCR was created in terms of section 12 of the National Credit Act and was responsible for creating access to the credit market, the registration of credit providers, credit bureaus and debt counsellors, enforcement of the Act, and the issuing of compliance notices for referral to the NCT.  The NCR was also responsible for promoting consumer awareness with regard to the National Credit Act and conducting research to determine trends in the credit industry. Further information was available on the NCR website.

Department of Trade and Industry Responses to public submissions
Ms Zodwa Ntuli, Deputy Director-General: Corporate and Consumer Regulation, dti, said that this response was an initial one only because there were some further policy issues that needed to be addressed more comprehensively. The submissions had been very constructive and the stakeholders and credit providers who presented before this Committee had been in contact with dti to provide clarity on issues raised.

Mr Macdonald Netshitenzhe, Chief Director: Policy and Legislation, dti, said the National Credit Act had made progress in promoting its key policy aims for a fair, transparent, competitive, sustainable, responsible, efficient, effective and accessible credit market.  The Act introduced initiatives to prevent reckless credit and a new debt counselling industry for debt restructuring for over-indebted consumers.  Since the scope and purpose of policy were outcome-based, the evaluation of outcomes indicated there was a need for the enhancement of certain policies underlying the Act, which could involve the further development of some of the provisions for the National Credit Act.

National Treasury (NT) and the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) had supported the direction of the Bill, but questioned whether amendments would go far enough, and whether they were far-reaching enough, in view of the lessons learnt after the 2008 global financial crisis. Their input called for coordination and cooperation amongst regulators and questioned whether amendments set tougher standards for payday lenders. It was explained how the NCA would tie in with the Twin Peaks system of regulation. 

Mr Netshitenzhe said the policy on which the Act was based was reviewed and confirmed to be sound. It had been noted that the National Credit Act ‘cushioned’ South Africa from the global financial crisis.  The issue of coordination amongst regulators was already in the Act and was being improved by the Bill.  Despite coordination, regulators should always act within their legislative mandate and the Twin Peaks system had a clear mandate.

Credit providers and industry associations had suggested, in their submissions, that the proposed guidelines and Code of Conduct should not be part of conditions of registration and regulations. There were fears that the Bill would negatively impact affordable housing and would hamper e-commerce.  The Code of Conduct should be from the industry and not be prescribed by the Minister and it was suggested  that provision should be made for public comments before the Minister prescribed the Code.

The dti response was that the guidelines aimed to address the identified weaknesses, and the elements included expense norms, income verification and the use of credit bureaus.  The NCR established an Industry Technical Committee to finalise guidelines by the end of February 2014, and the Code and guidelines needed to fall within the realm of statutory regulation to be binding on the industry, and needed to be universally applicable.  The Act enjoined the Minister to consult with the public before issuing any regulations or guidelines. E-commerce was supported, but should observe the basic tenets of affordability .

Credit providers and industry associations did not support removal of adverse credit information, because they feared that this would result in only limited or no information being available to assess consumers’ payment history, and they would be unable to distinguish between good and bad paying customers.  They submitted that the removal of adverse credit information would push up the cost of credit, restrict access to credit and would encourage bad behaviour by consumers.

Dti's response to this was that only adverse information (listings such as slow payer, delinquent and handed over) would be removed, and this was being done for the specific purpose of enabling listed consumers to obtain employment, rental accommodation and new credit if they could afford it.  Payment profile information (reflecting the monthly payments of account) would not be removed, and the fact that this would remain would enable lenders to assess and price for risk. The provisions aimed to “reward” consumers who paid their accounts by removing paid up adverse listings and judgments.

National Treasury, credit providers and industry associations said voluntary debt mediation should be introduced. Most envisaged this to be non-statutory and an alternative to debt counselling, and only the National Debt Mediation Association (NDMA) preferred it to be regulated by the Act.

Dti's would prefer that voluntary debt mediation should be regulated by the Act under the regulatory authority of the NCR.  Consumer protection measures available to consumers under statutory debt counsellors should also be extended to consumers in voluntary debt mediation. The NCA already provided for a voluntary debt review mechanism, which resulted in consent orders by the NCT.

The debt counselling industry submitted that the commission charged by payment distributing agencies (PDAs) further detracted from the amount paid by consumers, and the late payments resulted in the consumer being in default.

Dti responded to this that the PDAs currently had a loose agreement with the NCR, which should be formalised in the Act and the agencies should be regulated by the NCR.  The issue of personal liability for non-adherence should be discussed with regards to PDAs and debt counsellors.

Ms Ntuli said some of the issues raised by credit providers had already been dealt with in the Act, which spoke to consumer protection against abusive practices. Furthermore the NCA also addressed the fragmentation of the credit ombuds that hampered consumer redress and, more importantly, addressed reckless lending.  Government had stepped in to address the gaps in the self-regulated industry. The cost of credit and the interest and service cost caps needed to be reviewed because it was still difficult, particularly  for the lower-income population, to cope with the cost of credit.  One challenge was that abuse against consumers by debt collectors and administrators rested with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, but administrators, although they made decisions about the livelihoods of people, were not regulated under the Act.  The dubious marketing practices by mostly reputable institutions were a challenge. National Treasury highlighted the proposed Market Conduct Regulator under the Twin Peaks system which could address such issues. 

Contrary to recent media reports, Ms Ntuli stressed that there had been a lot of engagement with National Treasury regarding the Twin Peaks model that should enhance the conduct regulations for credit providers.  There was a gap in the industry that allowed for the rapid mushrooming of financial institutions, and the market aspect of the Twin Peaks model could address the gaps.  The NDMA had made a proposal for a pilot project for voluntary debt mediation to the dti, and NCR and was requested to provide an outline of how reckless lending would be reported and the governing structures of the project that would address inherent conflict of interest issues. However, it had not yet responded to the queries and the NCR had subsequently stopped the pilot.  The removal of adverse credit information would alleviate a lot of stress for consumers, some of whom who had already settled their debt but could not afford the court cost of having the judgments formally rescinded.

Discussion
Dr W James (DA) asked for clarification on the questions by National Treasury and SARB on whether the amendments would go far enough and were sufficiently far-reaching. He asked if there was any evidence to present to the Committee that self-regulation in the industry did not work.  He asked if the cost of the proposed changes had been determined. Finally, he asked whether the regulations were regarded as secondary laws.

Mr Lesiba Mashapa, Company Secretary, NCR, said the global financial crisis was caused by poor market conduct regulations.  The Bill included rules against reckless lending, and affordability assessment guidelines were being formulated that would become regulations.  There were requirements that the credit provider must provide the consumer with a breakdown of the cost of credit, and the consumer would be granted a period of five days to exercise their options.  Agents who worked on behalf of banks and credit providers were being regulated, and the regulator had a wide range of powers to inspect lenders. These amendments, in his view, were both sufficient and intrusive enough to be effective.

Ms Ntuli said it was the dti’s mandate to allow for self-regulation and there would be no interference if there were no problems upon review.  Research showed that the self-regulation affordability assessment area did not work and therefore the issuing of such guidelines was proposed to ensure consistency.

Mr Netshitenzhe said the use of the word ‘intrusive’ was meant to suggest that the Act would empower the NCR fully, so that what happened during the financial crises would never happen again, and all structures should be put in place to be enforced to the fullest extent. The cost of the proposed amendments had been done, and would be forwarded to the Committee.

Mr G Selau (ANC) said the NCT functioned like a court and the Parliamentary Legal Adviser spoke about court processes. He asked for clarification or distinction between the processes.  There was a submission made previously that this Bill, with the proposed provisions, was only addressing a certain section of the population. He wanted comment on this point. He suggested that the cost of credit could be best assessed if the example was a defaulted debt of R100  000, that escalated to R200  000, and the interest rate needed to be assessed.  He said that criminal activity by cell phone notifications was on the rise, where false notifications would be given that huge amounts of money had been won, but that bank details were needed for verification. There was, however, nothing in the Bill that covered how these people could be tracked and dealt with.

Mr Netshitenzhe said the Committee would be given a full table that responded in detail to all submissions and dealt with each issue discussed.  The most salient points only were selected for this presentation.

Ms Motshegare said the interest rate for unsecured credit was very high, but there had been a contraction in the past two quarters of the extension of unsecured loans to consumers.  A study had been implemented to review the fees and interest rates. This would be shared with the dti.

Ms Terblanche said the functions of the Tribunal were set out in section 27 of the National Credit Act. NCT was an entity that allowed people to have fair public hearings.  In terms of section 142 of the Act, the NCT was mandated to be quick, inquisitorial, informal and fair to all parties.  NCT decisions, similar to the lower (Magistrates’) Court decisions, could be taken to a higher court for an appeal.  Prohibited matters in terms of the Consumer Protection Act should be heard by the Tribunal. The Tribunal issued certificates if prohibited conduct was determined, for the consumer to claim damages through a higher court.

Mr X Mabasa (ANC) said regulators should function independently and find a way to complement each other. He asked where reckless lending was determined, and if regulators took any punitive measures against the credit providers, because it was important that exemplary measures were taken. The mass advertising of available credit was tempting to consumers.

Ms Motshegare said a number of investigations into reckless lending had been undertaken and were referred to the NCT.

Ms Ntuli said there was a gap in the legislation in that regulators did not have proactive powers to address transgressing credit providers and the proposed amendments empowered those regulators.  The issue also boiled down to personal liability and was raised previously by the Committee. The dti would take some time to discuss the issue and give feedback to the Committee.

Mr Mashapa said when consumers signed credit agreements they were also given options as to whether they agreed that credit providers should send them marketing material.  Negative wording that promised consumers that no credit checks would be done or that blacklisted consumers were welcome to apply were prohibited by the legislation.

Mr Mashapa said the NCT had handed down various judgments in the past year, and in two instances fines - of R20 million and R450  000 respectively - had been imposed on micro lenders, as well as orders for de-registration of credit providers for reckless lending.

Mr D Swanepoel (ANC) asked for more clarification on the exact type of information that would be removed from and retained by the credit bureaus, as well as the judgments. He noted that the judgment notices could be removed by rescission in any event, if the people had the means.  He asked what the difference was between the current removal of adverse credit information project, and the credit amnesty of a few years back.  The NCR dealt with credit agreements, but he asked for comment on the the instances where people involved in accidents were taken to hospitals for emergency surgery, thus incurring huge debt, or where panel beaters and tow trucks charged storage fees that in many cases exceeded the value of the car. He wondered if these circumstances should not also be covered by the Act. He asked for a definition of ‘short term credit’ and said there should be a distinction made between the caps on interest and the caps on the cost of credit, because the regulator was currently allowing for huge amounts of accrued costs.

Mr Mashapa said there were clusters of information held by credit bureaus.  Delinquent or slow player classifications would be labelled under consumer behaviour, as well as actions taken by credit providers such as debts handed over for collection. The payment profile information showed how an account was paid on a monthly basis, and would not be removed.  In addition, the affordability assessment guidelines were being introduced, to prevent over-indebted consumers from accessing more credit.

Mr Netshitenzhe said the previous credit amnesty was very limiting,in the sense that education and awareness were not featured, and it had not dealt with reckless borrowing and lending.  It was a once off action, but with the removal of adverse credit information project, this required the consumer to pay the debt before such information could be removed.  If there was a contract between two persons, the laws of equity and fairness should be applied. He said that although the examples cited of tow trucks and panel beaters were not credit agreements, but it was possible to determine in these instances if the contract was fair. There had been a submission made that such contracts should be incorporated into the Act, but this point was still under review by dti.

Ms Motshegare said short term credit referred to loans of up to R8  000, payable over six months, and the maximum interest charged was 5% per month.

Ms Ntuli said the cost of credit needed to be revised, and dti would work with the NCR, in collaboration with stakeholders, to look at the sectors where there were high levels of abuse, as well as the appropriateness of the caps. These outcomes would be reported to the Committee.

Mr Z Wayile (ANC) asked how a balance would be achieved between protecting the currency and meeting the mandate of the National Credit Act. He asked what measures were put in place to recoup the money that consumers lost, due to fraudulent activities by debt collectors and debt counsellors, and raised the possibility of engaging with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on this issue. This situation had far reaching implications as far as productivity levels was concerned, and perhaps needed engagement with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) and trade unions. On the 1st of each month, mashonisas (loan sharks) were lined up at the banks, with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) cards and identity documents of pensioners, and this should be addressed.

Ms Motshegare said the NCR, together with SASSA and the South African Police Service, had gone to seven provinces and raided pension pay out points and a number of people were arrested. Other cases had been   referred to the NCT. The dti, in collaboration with the Department of Social Development, was working on an initiative to address the same issue, because it was illegal to use the SASSA card for credit purposes.

Mr Netshitenzhe added that the dti made contact with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, to discuss issues such as garnishee orders, emolument attachment orders and jurisdictional issues. There had not been any outcomes, but there was still engagement on certain issues. The issue of employee productivity had been submitted, and would be covered in the comprehensive table to be presented to the Committee. The currency would be protected, not at the expense of consumers or credit providers and would be balanced in collaboration with the Registrar of Banks, through cooperation with industry entities and the Market Conduct Regulator.

Ms Ntuli said many SASSA card holders had nothing left after deductions. The legislation stated that a beneficiary could forfeit their social grant benefits if the card was used for purposes for which it should not be used.  Obviously, credit providers were debiting from the card and they should not, but the law only provided for a penalty for the beneficiary, not the credit providers. The issue of productivity would be proposed for  discussion at NEDLAC level.

Ms Ntuli again said the Department would respond more fully to any issues not covered, either in writing or at the next meeting.

The Chairperson asked a clearer explanation on the SASSA card issue and asked if there was no legislation in place to address this issue.

Ms Ntuli said the proposal from SASSA was that the amount received by a beneficiary should not be taken into account when the affordability assessment was done for a consumer to access credit.  The deductions that were currently being made, for the repayment of credit, left beneficiaries with nothing.  The grant was not to be considered as “income” for the purposes of accessing or repaying credit. However,  credit providers continued to use the grant as a basis for extending credit.

The Chairperson asked how credit providers gained access to the card, and managed to get the money deducted.

Ms Ntuli explained that previously beneficiaries had to queue at pay points to get cash, but the Department of Social Development had developed the smart-card for ease of access, as well as safety reasons, so beneficiaries could draw money or buy goods anywhere, using that card.  Legislation allowed for not more than 10% of the grant to be deducted to pay for premiums on funeral policies.  The card now worked as a debit card and credit providers had gained access through the system, although it was illegal to do so.

Dr James said the economic collapse in the United States of America (USA) was attributed to two federal agencies in the secondary mortgage market who bought bad mortgages to sell.  The bill became too high and they went to their treasury for more money, but this was turned down because they had to re-nationalise.  The same situation applied to South Africa, because National Treasury would also not be able to provide a financial cushion in the secondary mortgage market, and had a real interest in regulating reckless lending, but an unintended consequence would be to squeeze banks out of the secondary mortgage markets.

Ms Ntuli responded that dti welcomed the Market Conduct Regulator that would enforce more rigorous market regulations as that would also regulate the flood of marketing to the lower income market.  There was a need to strengthen the legislation, but the Bill did not want to squeeze the banks out of the secondary mortgage market. Discussions still to be held would focus on the balancing act of ensuring a firmly regulated market, whilst also bearing in mind the needs of consumers and credit providers.

The Chairperson said the interest rate of the cost of credit was capped under the National Credit Act.  There was no clear answer to what the cost of credit was and whether it was capped.  Young people often required retail debt, where hidden costs were often found, and those costs, when added on, landed them in severe debt. There were many people who collected debt legally, but the costs differed. She asked if the cost of credit did not need to be more closely governed so that there was a universal idea of what the cost of credit was.

Mr Mashapa said that items should be stratified and the costs of those items should be capped.  There were loopholes around uncapped credit life insurance.  The NCR code proposed that credit life insurance be capped at R4 per R1  000. 

Ms Ntuli proposed that dti should come back to the Committee on the cost of credit issue, because it still  needed to verify certain facts.  A consumer who did not have a history of credit could be denied credit or made to pay higher costs, because that person did not have a credit record.

The Chairperson asked dti to look at the different issues that came up during the discussion and to come back in two days with feedback for the Committee.

Professor Fiona Tregenna input
Prof Fiona Tregenna, Economics Professor, University of Johannesburg, said coordination with other regulatory bodies needed to be balanced to curb erosion of independence. In addition, there was a need to balance the interests of consumers with the stability of the financial sector. She suggested that dti needed to be very specific, in the clauses and provisions of the Bill, as to how coordination could be strengthened, otherwise it could become a generic issue that was never fully developed.  There was also a need to amplify the provisions around the removal of adverse credit information, because it was clear what was going to be removed, but it was not clear what was kept. It should be confirmed that consumers would not be disadvantaged, because credit providers or potential employers could still make their own inferences based on the payment profile.  There were many stakeholders in the debt review process, like debt collectors, debt counsellors and PDAs, with a cost attached and the process could be streamlined for the consumer that was clear according to their needs.  It should be determined if the Bill adequately addressed the issues that had been raised, assessing what could be done through legislation, what were enforcement issues, and what could be addressed through consumer awareness projects.  She suggested that dti should take a comprehensive look at the issues raised, and provide substantive feedback.

The meeting was adjourned.

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