Relief for bad payers

14 February 2013 - 02:39 By DENISE WILLIAMS
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

More than 2 million consumers who earn R15000 or less could have their bad records at credit bureaus wiped clean by the end of the year. But this will benefit only individuals whose debts are R10000 or less.

The office of the National Credit Regulator and the Department of Trade and Industry expect a partial amnesty on credit bureau listings to be effective by the end of the year.

Briefing parliament's select committee on trade and international relations yesterday, CEO of the National Credit Regulator's office Nomsa Motshegare said a draft independent study was in favour of the credit information amnesty project.

". There will be an amnesty . but we want to make sure that the consumer understands that when this amnesty happens they also have to take responsibility. We are in no way suggesting a blanket amnesty."

Motshegare said about 86% of people (more than 2million) earning less than R15000, and who owe less than R10000, would benefit.

Their bad credit history would be expunged, giving them a clean slate to once again apply for credit or pass a credit rating test, she said.

But beneficiaries would still be liable for repayment of any outstanding monies, said the DTI's deputy director-general for consumer and corporate regulation , Zodwa Ntuli.

"The amnesty is not intended to take away your obligation to pay the debt but it might [have the effect that] your negative credit information [is] removed so that it isn't used [to] bar you [from] getting further credit," she said.

"We don't want interventions that will encourage recklessness on the part of consumers. You want responsible consumers in the market . ," said Ntuli.

The government's proposed credit amnesty has raised the ire of the credit and banking industry. It has argued that without knowing a person's credit history it would not be in a position to assess risk factors when approving more credit to a consumer.

Ntuli said unlike the previous amnesty, which was granted in 2006, the study had focused on the effect a new one would have on the credit industry.

The department would present parliament with a full report on the amnesty next month.

Ntuli said in some instances the industry was likely to benefit as more people would be seeking credit once cleared.

"We will come back to parliament within a month, [by] then we should be [able] to make a decision in terms of implementation . It could be as soon as this year," Ntuli said.

Chairman of the select committee Dumisani Gamede said parliament planned to approve the proposed amnesty before the end of the year.

"By Christmas, they [credit-impaired people] will be having some presents," Gamede said.

He said he had little sympathy for those in the banking industry and the Credit Bureau Association for exploiting people with a good chance of qualifying for credit or over-indebted consumers so as to make an extra buck.

"They know they are supposed to explain and give information [about how to get out of debt] but they deliberately don't do so because for them it's business."