DRAFT NCA AMENDMENT BILL AMENDING THE ACT The Portfolio Committee on Trade & Industry have been trying to get a draft Bill passed into law which will amend the National Credit Act. Over the past few months, different parties have submitted written comments on the draft bill, and at the end of January and beginning of February, public hearings at Parliament allowed interested parties to voice their thoughts on the draft Bill. One of the largest features of the proposed Bill is called ‘Debt Intervention’. It is an envisaged debt relief mechanism where certain types of consumers, who qualify, could ask the National Credit Regulator and National Consumer Tribunal to reduce debt repayments or pause payments on them for a period of 12 months. The NCT has the option to pause payments again for a further 12 months, if the consumer still does not have income or sufficient income to cover their debts. The Bill then goes even further to give the NCT the power to write off unsecured debt entirely (if all the debts add up to less than R50 000) if after two years, the person still has no means to repay any of their debt.
Though a lot of people are very interested in the prospect of some consumers not having to repay their debts, this is not the intention of the Bill. The idea is to get the NCR to help low income consumers who currently do not benefit from debt review due to the NCR set fee structures for the industry. Many of these consumers are not advertised to because of the low financial return for Debt Counsellors and the relatively large workload involved in helping them. The Portfolio Committee thinks that the NCR will be able to assist where thousands of registered Debt Counsellors and their companies have held back in the past. Concerns have been raised that the NCR, and by extension the NCT, does not realistically have even partial capacity for any such debt relief measures. Another aspect of the draft Bill would see every credit act entering debt review scrutinized for reckless credit and potentially hundreds of thousands of possible cases of reckless credit reported to the NCR and courts to investigate. Failing to report possible cases could see Debt Counsellors get into serious trouble and face fines or worse. There are concerns about the ability of credit providers to supply the needed documentation on every credit agreement entering debt review, and capacity at the NCR