News : Regulator Raids 11 Debt Counselling Call Centres
Western Cape, South Africa, Nov 20, 2015 -- Debt counsellors outsourcing their services to unregistered call centres got a wake-up call after the National Credit Regulator raided a number of these centres in the Western Cape.
The regulator said yesterday its officials swooped on 11 debt counselling firms operating call centres in the province, who may have wrongly told consumers that the service represented a payment holiday or a way to reduce monthly debt repayments.
Debt counsellors are overindebted consumers’ interface in the debt review process, charged with restructuring their finances and reaching payment agreements with creditors.
Jacqueline Boucher, the regulator’s acting manager for investigations and enforcement, said it had identified a growing trend of debt review call centres being conducted in the Western Cape.
"The investigation is still in progress so at this stage we cannot divulge what was found during the raids," she said. "The purpose of the raids was, however, to make sure that only registered debt counsellors are conducting the services of a debt counsellor, and not the call centre agents."
It is the latest in the regulator’s attempts to clean up the industry, which include getting the Department of Trade and Industry, its parent department, to pass regulations on credit affordability, maximum interest rates and more stringent rules for debt counsellors and payment distribution agencies.
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Paul Slot, president of the Debt Counsellors Association of SA (DCASA), said he was not aware of the raids, but criticised firms acting outside the law.
"I am aware that some organisations are calling clients and placing them under debt review without their knowledge or approval," he said. "This practice is not in line with the (act) and DCASA cannot support this. In fact, this unlawful market practice is undermining the good work of many debt counsellors."
He said that debt review was not a payment holiday, and warned that anybody selling this to consumers was setting them up for failure.
"The purpose of debt review is to assist consumers to repay debt, and currently monthly payments by consumers who use debt review exceed R600m."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About National Credit Regulator:
National Credit Regulator (NCR) (known in South Africa) as the NCR and was established as the regulator under the National Credit Act 34 of 2005 (the Act). The NCR is responsible for the regulation of the South African credit industry.
Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2015
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