JOHANNESBURG – The dredit Ombud said on Friday that it had saved consumers R6.95 million last year, 17 percent less than the R8.36m a year earlier, following what might have been the toughest year in its history.
The ombud said in its 2019 annual report released on Friday that it had fielded 29 510 complaints and enquiries via its 37 269 call centre, which was 17 percent less than the 45 198 it had received a year earlier.
It said that the drop in complaints and enquiries via its call centre followed the decision not to investigate non-member disputes and the withdrawal of the banks from the credit ombud.
Members of the Banking Association SA resigned from the Credit Ombud in October last year, saying their customers would be better served if all disputes that concerned banks – including credit information disputes – were referred to the Ombudsman for Banking Services.
Chairperson Tefo Raditapole described 2019 as the toughest year in the organisation's history.
“The past year (2019) may have been the toughest year in the history of the Credit Ombud Association, with the banks having decided to consolidate their customer complaints procedure under the ombud for banking services. I am, however, happy to report that, after extensive consultation with the banks, this transition was completed,” Raditapole said.
As a consequence of the resignation by banks, the council had to retrench 10 staff members, a process which was concluded at the end of October.
Credit Ombud Nicky Lala-Mohan was axed last year after he was found guilty of “financial misconduct”.
“Undoubtedly, the lowest point of the year was having to terminate the employment relationship with the previous Credit Ombud and lay charges after an internal investigation found evidence of financial misconduct,” Raditapole said.
The council appointed Howard Gabriels as interim ombud.
Gabriels said that, over the year, the ombud had worked closely with various consumer bodies to ensure it reached as many consumers as possible.
Last year, the ombud conducted 122 workshops and 51 double impact workshops for members.
“We have been active on all media platforms to spread the message to consumers far and wide,” said Gabriels.
Case managers closed 4 937 disputes at an average cost of R3 250.52 a dispute.
The Credit Ombud, which resolves disputes between members of the credit industry and consumers, said 57.5 percent of disputes were settled in favour of consumers, down 6 percent compared with 2018.
The complaints included default listings at credit bureaux, debt counselling queries and enquiries about how and when the credit ombud could assist consumers in matters relating to credit.
Among complaints was a claim for retrenchment cover. It was resolved in favour of the consumer.