Banks need to tone down marketing tactics

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Harassment from banks to take on credit products might soon come to an end with the launch yesterday of the Banking Association of South Africa's (Basa) Codes of Conduct for selling unsecured credit.

Basa managing director Cas Coovadia said the codes had been agreed upon by the banks in response to a public outcry over the aggressive nature of the marketing tactics used by banks.

"It is a problem when people are forcefully approached to take on credit products," Basa chairman and Standard Bank chief executive Jacko Maree said.

"But we must be realistic and accept that there is a need for credit out there, and banks will always approach people."

Growth in demand for credit by the private sector slowed to 24,83 percent in January from December's 25,85 percent, according to figures released by Statistics South Africa yesterday, indicating that last year's interest rate hikes were starting to sink in.

But the reserve bank is still concerned about the country's rampant consumer spending, and last month warned that it was studying proposals to curb what it called "reckless" lending.

Insurance financial adviser Prodeo Mabunda said that he had been "stalked" by marketing representatives from a local bank to buy a product and to change from a savings to a cheque account.

"They would call me once, and I would tell them I wasn't interested. But then someone else would call me three weeks later selling me the same product. It was very irritating because it felt like they weren't respecting my space," Mabunda said.

One of the provisions of the new codes is that once a customer has expressed a desire not be called they will be marked as such on a nationwide database that reflects on the systems of all South African banks.