Debt counselling industry comes of age

Debt counselling which has become the most important tool for deeply indebted consumers to restructure their debt has come of age with the introduction of The Debt Review Awards where industry experts and members of the public vote for the debt counsellor or debt counselling firm that they think provided the best service during the year.

Sponsored by a number of the major banks, the awards are supported by the body governing the industry, The National Credit Regulator, as well as the Department of Trade and Industry who is the custodian of the National Credit Act which governs the credit industry.

Debt expert Neil Roets, CEO of one of the largest debt counselling firms in South Africa, Debt Rescue, said the awards was the credit industry’s version of the Oscar’s.

“We all work incredibly hard during the year to provide the best quality service to our clients and the Debt Counselling Awards recognises those of us who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Hosted by the digital magazine Debt DIGI, this year’s award ceremony will take place at the Midrand conference centre on Saturday June 13. Voting, which is expected to start in about two weeks, will close on May 24. Votes can be cast by going to www.debtfreedigi.co.za.

Roets said the debt counselling industry that was beset with problems when it came into effect on July 1 2007, had made giant strides in serving both consumers and creditors.

“Debt review is an absolute win-win situation for both consumers and creditors. Creditors are getting paid albeit over a longer period and in smaller instalments and indebted consumers are able to service their debt and still afford to get on with their lives and service their debt.”

There are strict rules that have to be adhered to by both creditors and consumers in order for the process to work. The act has recently been amended to grant greater protection to consumers and to ensure that creditors play by the rules.

“South Africa has become one of the leading countries in the world in dealing with the whole issue around debt and how to deal with it.

“The most important thing is for consumers to seek help from a debt counsellor as soon as he or she realises that they are in over their heads.”

Roets said the fact that total consumer debt now tops R1.427-trillion (according to the latest figures released by the reserve bank) shows that consumers are having a hard time.

“We know from figures released by the National Credit Regulator and Statistics South Africa that the majority of indebted consumers owe 75% of their monthly pay to creditors.

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