Hard-up consumers sink deeper into debt

Maryanne Maina

Maryanne Maina

Most South Africans are in debt for clothes, cars and credit cards, and each consumer has an average of three store cards.

These were some of the findings of the National Credit Regulator's (NCR) quarterly report on credit bureau statistics released yesterday, which showed a slight deterioration in consumer credit records.

The survey was based on information submitted by 11 registered credit bureaus.

Nomsa Motshegare, chief operating officer at the NCR, said: "Credit cards were heavily marketed before the NCA was implemented."

According to the report, out of the 17,53million credit active consumers, 59,5percent of them had good credit records in the third quarter of last year. This was a decrease from 60,4percent in the second quarter.

The decrease in good records indicates an increase of 0,9percent in levels of debt stress.

Consumers in good credit standing are those with less than two months' instalments in arrears.

"These statistics indicate the pressures currently facing consumers - which are a combination of high interest rates, high levels of household debt and deteriorating labour market conditions," said Maciek Szymanski of African Alliance.

Tony Twine of Econometrix said debts had become harder to pay "especially with the increase in interest rates since June 2006 till June 2008".

Twine agreed that without the NCA, there would have been an increase in unwise lending.

Increases in fuel, food and other consumables pinched the pockets of many consumers who are unable to pay debts.

The report found that good records had been maintained as interest rates were increased late in June, so the pressure on indebted consumers took place in the third quarter.

"There has also been a reduction in the percentage of adverse listings and judgments," said Motshegare.