South Africans are waking up to the befits of debt counselling, but more education is needed
Recent statistics released by Veri Cred Credit Bureau (VCCB) show the staggering scale of the debt crisis faced by South African consumers. The data puts the current debt – which represents all the debt still outstanding at the end of Q2, 2021 (after some partial repayments have been made) – at a whopping R2.077 trillion.
These stats also indicate that at the end Q2 2021, 717 495 people were under debt review.
According to Sebastien Alexanderson, CEO of National Debt Advisors (NDA), “It is time that South Africans start seeking relief options for their mounting debt. Though debt review has received its share of negativity over the last few years, more consumers are becoming aware of its benefits, as evidenced by an increase in the number of consumers seeking debt counselling”
Debt counselling as a debt relief measure to help over-indebted South Africans. It was introduced in 2007, through the National Credit Act. A major benefit of debt counselling and the process of debt review is having a registered debt counsellor negotiate with creditors on behalf of consumers for reduced payments (in line with their disposable income), as well as putting forth restructured payment plans – which will be referred to court for final determination. The consumer is thereby protected from any legal action by credit providers (on debt where legal action has not already commenced).
Alexanderson further comments that there are a number of points which need to be considered before undergoing debt review, but insists that commitment to the process is key. “ We have seen many consumers buckle down and make the required sacrifices to get themselves back on track again. They are fully aware that whilst under debt review, they will not have access to new credit.
“This will only change once they have settled all their short term debt, and their payments on their mortgage agreements are up to date. Only when all of these conditions have been satisfied, will their debt counsellor issue them with a clearance certificate and notify all creditors and credit bureaus of their new credit status. Consumers should ensure that they fully understand the terms and conditions of their debt counselling agreement, and be fully aware of the costs involved.”
Alexanderson goes on to say that many people enter the debt review programme seeking immediate relief from debt collectors and creditors, only to exit the programme before their debt is successfully repaid. “Many people talk the talk of getting out of debt – but are not willing to walk the walk – at least not all the way to the end. This is incredibly short-sighted and even dangerous, as it opens the consumer up to legal action from creditors and possibly even the repossession of assets via the courts.”
“Anything that adds to our well-being is hard work. There is no magic wand. When we set a goal for losing weight, we have to follow the steps and make the sacrifices. The same applies to becoming debt-free and ultimately financially free. It isn’t easy. Yet, it is achievable – and worth it,” concludes Alexanderson.