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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Things are getting pricier

Eskom’s 25% electricity price increase takes effect in April

Municipalities are to announce increases in rates
(many will be as high as15%)

Metrorail has said it will increase the price of train tickets by 15-20% during April

Road tolls
are going up:
toll charges going from Johannesburg to Polokwane and back go from R190 to R216;
from Johannesburg to Durban and back go from R300 to R360

Airport taxes
will go up 133% in August
jumping from R42 to R99 a flight on domestic routes, R89 to R208 for regional flights and from R118 to R271 forinternational flights

A general fuel levy of 17,5 cents a litre came into effect on 7 April, pushing up the price of petrol – the total tax on fuel has climbed to R243,5 cents a litre for petrol and 228,1 cents a litre for diesel

Bad Apples

During April 2010 the registration of two non-compliant debt counsellors were cancelled by the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT).

This was in response to applications brought by the National Credit Regulator (NCR), the NCT said in a statement.

Petrus Martinus Ferreira trading as Ferreira Debt Counsellors (FDC) had his registration cancelled.

Ralph Zulu of GNR and Associates had his registration cancelled, but it was suspended for one year.

This meant that should Zulu contravene the National Credit Act (NCA) again within a year, he would not be allowed to continue with his business.

"Both these debt counsellors were found to have repeatedly contravened the NCA and their conditions of registration," the NCT said.

The Tribunal ruled that Ferreira through FDC had contravened the NCA in a number of ways.

He had repeatedly failed to comply with the administrative duties of debt counsellors as prescribed by the NCA and its regulations.

He also failed to comply with certain conditions of his registration.

Ferreira did not submit debt review proposals on behalf of his clients to the affected credit providers nor did he refer debt review applications to the Magistrate's Court for court orders.

"This failure on the part of Ferreira placed his clients at serious risk in that credit providers could institute legal proceedings against such clients.

"These legal proceedings could result in clients losing their property including homes and vehicles," the NCT said.

The NCR found that Ferreira not only failed to maintain adequate records and keep relevant copies of documentation to comply with the NCA, but he had also set up a close corporation as a payment distribution agent, despite this not having been approved by the NCR.


"Ferreira had claimed that FDC was a separate legal entity to himself and he could therefore not be held liable for contravening the law."

The Tribunal, however, found that there was no distinction between him and FDC and that he had merely used the close corporation as a separate legal entity to avoid the law.

"Debt counsellors must act professionally and reasonably in providing debt counselling services to consumers and provide them in a manner that is timely, fair and non-discriminatory and does not bring the NCR or debt counselling into disrepute," the NCT said.

Ferreira was now required to give a list of all his past and current clients to the NCR so that the necessary steps could be taken to assist them.

In the matter of Ralph Zulu, the NCR found that Zulu had not adhered to several NCA and regulatory requirements with regard to prescribed time-frames, keeping of proper records, and following the debt counselling process through to the end by obtaining Magistrate's court orders in respect of his clients. Last year the Tribunal had adopted a rehabilitative approach in disciplining Zulu rather than penalising him with fines or immediate deregistration.

Following this, they found that Zulu's administration of files had improved considerably.

"The Tribunal decided to cancel his registration, however, this was suspended for one year until February 2011, based on a number of conditions which included, that Zulu does not further contravene the National Credit Act; he will assist clients whose debt review process had been terminated due to his failure to comply with the NCA; and that he pays outstanding costs in respect of investigations conducted by the Regulator."

This information supplied by The NCR and NCT
www.ncr.org.za

Ina Wilken joins the NCF

Veteran consumer champion Ina Wilken has joined forces with the National Consumer Forum, bringing over 15 years of experience and to the consumer movement.

NCF chairman Thami Bolani said Wilken had showed her commitment by speaking out on a number of issues and representing consumers on industry bodies and other platforms.

"The consumer movement in South Africa needs a lot of building up," said Bolani, "and we welcome people who are passionate about improving the lot of the average consumer."

Wilken was honoured as Individual Consumer Champion of the Year by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2005, and was runner-up in 2006. She was director of the former SA Consumer Council in 1995, and was closely involved with the SA National Consumer Union from 1996 to 2009.

She has been the consumer voice on various bodies, including the Department of Justice's Debt Collectors Council, the SA Banking Adjudicator Commission, the SA Bureau of Standards' Consumer Sector Board, and the Financial Services Board's Consumer Advisory Panel.

Bolani said that Wilken would continue to be a spokesperson on consumer rights, and would take a leadership role in the NCF's recently launched Access to Knowledge (A2K) programme.

The consumer group recently opened its pilot A2K centre in the economically depressed area of KwaMhlanga, east of Pretoria, with support from food company Nestlé and financial services provider Metropolitan.

After officially opening the centre, deputy minister of trade and industry Bongi Ntuli urged the NCF to roll out these centres across the country, to empower consumers with knowledge.

Never heard of the NCF?

The National Consumer Forum is a self-sustaining, non-governmental organisation that educates consumers about their rights, lobbies on consumer issues and speaks out where it can on a range of challenges that consumers - especially lower income earners - experience in their daily lives.

The NCF publish a national, free-distribution consumer rights newspaper called Consumer Fair six times a year. They also host an annual World Consumer Rights Day conference, and work closely with a range of consumer agencies such as the industry regulators and the provincial offices of the Consumer Protector.

The NCF is an affiliate member of the global federation of consumer organisations - the London-based Consumers International - a grouping of over 250 consumer organisations in more than 120 countries. They support the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, in particular the right to basic needs: All consumers have the right to basic goods and services such as adequate food, drinking water, shelter, clothing, health care, electricity and education. These rights lay a foundation for a life of human dignity and therefore give meaning to citizens' rights to vote for the political party of their choice periodically.

National Consumer Forum
www.ncf.org.za
ncf@sabs.co.za
012 428 7071

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Survey conducted by AIA on behalf of the National Credit Regulator – March 2010

A Survey conducted by African International Advisors on behalf of the NCR conducted last month reports the following in part:

"The success of the Debt Counsellor (DC) process is important to the NCR. Therefore, we have conducted a survey to get a better understanding of the level of satisfaction among consumers and other stakeholders.

Questions were asked of Debt Counsellors themselves, DC clients and Credit Providers (CPs).
The surveys were conducted electronically and by phone and we were able to achieve a statistically significant sample in all three categories of respondents.


The DC client perspective
It is encouraging to note that DC clients were in general satisfied with the debt counselling process. In addition 79% of those interviewed were happy with the outcome of the debt counselling process. Given that this is a relatively young process we should be encouraged by the progress that has been made.

89% of the consumer respondents were able to find a suitable DC relatively easily. A vast majority of the clients felt that their DC was knowledgeable and provided them with useful information in terms of managing their finances. 91% of those interviewed clearly stated that they would recommend debt counselling to those who needed it.

Some of the satisfied consumers said the following:
“I no longer engage in any buying on credit so they have done a good job in helping me manage my finances and helping me keep within my budget “

“When times are tough we call our debt counsellor and she helps us come up with an arrangement that allows us a better standard of living “

The only major criticism some DC clients had was related to communication. They felt that the frequency and effectiveness of the communication they received from their DC could be improved."


IF you are a DC have you considered sending your clients a copy of Debtfree DIGI as part of your aftercare service?

This is a free service offered by Debtfree. All you have to do is send a request to magazine@debtcounsellingsa.co.za and ask for DIGI to be sent to your clients on your behalf.

Monday, April 12, 2010

DIGI is all grown up

We are happy to announce that Debtfree DIGI is finally getting the attention it deserves and will now be available for viewing on our website
Debtfree- click here

We hope that with this format we will be able to add more content to each issue.

So head on over and have a look.
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