More consumers default on debts

SOUTH African consumers are failing to pay off their debts on time, the TransUnion Consumer Credit Index shows

The index (CCI) is a unique indicator of consumer credit health based on a 100 point scale.

An index rating above 50.0 indicates improving credit health, while below 50.0 represents deterioration. Second quarter results for consumers showed that the CCI declined to 50.7 from 54.4 in the first quarter of 2012. This was an indication of steady consumer credit health despite the increase in consumer loans.

Credit health refers to the ability of consumers to service existing credit obligations within the constraints of monthly household budgets.

Released on a quarterly basis, the CCI measures aggregate consumer loan repayment records and tracks the use of consumer credit facilities as an indicator of distressed borrowing.

It also estimates household cash flow as a means of determining financial pressure or relief.

The index is compiled by TransUnion Credit Bureau, with technical support from market intelligence firm ETM Analytics.

The breakdown of the results showed that consumer loan impairments were rising. In other words, there had been an increase in consumer accounts that are more than 90 days in arrears on their required payments.

"It is a more cautious picture than we saw in first quarter, but after strong improvements to credit health in 2010 and 2011, it would be a mistake to interpret the second quarter results too negatively, as one quarter does not make a trend," said Geoff Miller, chief executive officer of TransUnion Credit Bureau. "It does, nonetheless, suggest that lenders may need to reassess their risk appetite for new loans and adapt accordingly."

Miller said the number of impaired accounts had risen almost 9% since mid-2011. He said that consumers needed to improve their behaviour on loan repayment and credit card use.