The National Debt Mediation Association is re-forming as a non-profit, independent financial wellness organisation to assist indebted consumers.
The National Debt Mediation Association (NDMA) has over the past five years provided assistance to over-indebted consumers; however it has struggled with the perception of being in the pocket of the credit industry which funded the organisation.
NDMA CEO Magauta Mphahlele says while it has established itself as a credible and trusted mediator in the eyes of consumers, “there have been some criticisms of the organisation’s independence, based on its establishment and funding by the Credit Industry.”
As a result the NDMA has relinquished any industry role it used to play and is in the process of restructuring its board composition to include more independent members. “This will ensure that the good work the NDMA has been doing to assist consumers can continue without being undermined by perceptions of lack of independence” says Mphahlele.
In its new role, the NDMA aims to significantly contribute to assisting the nine million over-indebted South Africans with a range of financial wellness solutions that offer options based on the consumer’s needs and preferences in a transparent and accountable manner.
It will support indebted individuals to rehabilitate their credit status and reclaim their financial wellbeing. The agency will also become self-funding through sourcing donor funding as well as generating income from services offered on a cost recovery basis.
The NDMA will inform and educate consumers through the National Responsible Credit Helpline. “After handling more than 40 000 calls in the past two years, the NDMA has built up a wealth of knowledge and experience in handling consumer enquiries and empowering consumers with information and self-help tools on any matter related to credit, budgeting, rights and responsibilities, how to handle disputes as well as referrals to appropriate assistance where the NDMA has no jurisdiction” says Mphahlele.
Requests for assistance can also be made through an SMS “Please Help” channel. “We hope that industry and government will support the National Responsible Credit Helpline as this is a service we aim to provide for free to consumers” says Mphahlele.
Apart from providing direct services to consumers, the NDMA plans to play a strong advocacy role aimed at influencing policy and transforming market conduct, consumer protection and access to redress for consumers, especially low-income consumers.
The NDMA will offer services including individual or group financial hardship solutions, legal remedies, court mediation, and consulting. Where a consumer requires and is suited for debt counseling, the NDMA will offer this service through a newly established unit within the NDMA, run by registered debt counselors. These services will be charged according to prescribed guidelines where they exist.
“The NDMA will also strive to find ways to service low-income consumers either at no charge or at a minimal and affordable cost and through lobbying for funding to be provided by government or industry” says Mphahlele.
NDMA Helpline: 086 111 6362