You and Your Rights: Debt Counselling

Summary

  • Debt counselors can work in a group but cannot be affiliated with debt-collection agencies or credit providers
  • Once you apply for a debt review, your debt counselor must alert the National Credit Bureau and all your credit providers of this fact
  • Debt counseling fees are subsidized for individuals earning under R2,500 a month
  • Skipping a debt review agreement payment will annul that agreement
  • If a debt counselor declares you to be over-indebted, your debt must be re-arranged if your payments are not reduced or postponed

 

Your Rights

What is debt counselling?

Section 86 of the National Credit Act (34 of 2005), introduces the concept of debt review – more commonly known as debt counselling. Debt counselling is when an independent person – who is registered with the National Credit Regulator - mediates between the consumer and the credit provider in order to reach a re-payment agreement.

Who is a debt counsellor?

A debt counsellor is an independent counsellor who is registered with the National Credit Bureau. He or she CANNOT be a member of a debt collection agency or work for a credit provider. Debt counsellors can work alone or as a group but they MUST be registered.

Who can apply for debt counselling?

Section 79 of the National Credit Act sets a simple test to decide who can apply for debt counselling. It says that if you subtract all your monthly expenses from your income and are still in debt, then you are over-indebted and can apply for debt counselling. Simply put, it’s when you can’t afford to pay back your debts. 

How do you apply for debt counselling?

  • You must first apply to a debt counsellor and pay an application fee. You must make sure you receive proof of your application.
  • The debt counsellor must then notify ALL your credit providers as well as the National Credit Bureau that you have made an ‘application for debt review’.
  • The debt counsellor can either ACCEPT or REJECT your application.
  • If accepted, the debt counsellor will then make one of the following four rulings: 
    • You are NOT over-indebted
    • Your are over-indebted and your DEBT must be RE-ARRANGED
    • You are over-indebted and your PAYMENTS must be made on a LATER DATE.
    • You are over-indebted and your PAYMENTS must be REDUCED.  
  • Both you and each credit provider must then sign the ruling made by the debt counsellor. In terms of section 87 of the National Credit Act, this agreement is called a protocol.
  • If you or the credit provider is unhappy with the protocol, you can apply to the Magistrate’s Court to try and change the ruling.
  • If you and the credit provider are both happy with the protocol, it will be placed before a Magistrate’s Court by the debt counsellor and becomes an Order of the Court.  

What happens if I skip a payment under the debt review agreement?

The agreement is cancelled and you must go back to the Magistrate’s Court to have it reinstated.

How much should I pay for debt counselling? 

The Debt Counsellors Association has recommended rates and tariffs. 

  • If you earn under R2,500.00 a month, the National Credit Regulator will subsidise your debt counselling.  
  • If you earn between R2,500.00 and R3,500.00 a month, you should be asked to pay an application fee of R50 and a rejection fee of R300.00.
  • You should not be made to pay more than R3,000.00 for your first payment.
  • The debt counsellor can take 5% of each payment each month.

How do I find a debt counsellor?

You don’t have to take the first debt counsellor that you find. You should shop around and find the best value for money.  

Useful contacts

The National Credit Bureau

www.ncr.org.za

0860 627 627

The Debt Counselling Association

www.debtcounselling.co.za

0861 733 863