What to do if your debt counsellor goes AWOL

What to do if your debt counsellor goes AWOLIf your debt counsellor is not registered, or not contactable, or not providing you the required service, then you can transfer to another debt counsellor.  All you have to do is approach a new debt counsellor and complete the application form. It will then take about a week for the change to reflect on the NCR system, after which your new debt counsellor will be on your record.

The NCR’s website contains a list of all regisered debt counsellors. There are currently only 1 646 registered debt counsellors, but there are also 1 723 debt counsellors that have not maintained their registration, for various reasons. Only registered debt counsellors can assist you.

According to David O’Brien of debt counselling firm Meerkat.co.za, if you transfer debt counsellors for any reason, then you need to be aware of several important points.

If the court or National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) order has already been issued, you have no choice but to stick to the agreement.  You can, however, accelerate the repayments so that you settle the debt sooner.

If you transfer to another debt counsellor before the court order has been issued, the new debt counsellor will reassess your case, which may result in a different or better payment plan, or even find you not over-indebted, but they are entitled to a new fee for that process.  The new debt counsellor will then complete the legal process and have the order issued.

If your previous debt counsellor is contactable, you can ask them for a refund of any fees, where work has not been done.

O’Brien emphasised that it is not advisable to switch debt counsellors just because you have been promised a lower repayment. Generally these promises are not fulfilled.

Be careful when paying your creditors directly

If your debt counsellor provides poor aftercare service, you are fully entitled to pay your creditors directly as per the court order and not through the debt counsellor. However, you need to keep an eye on the monthly amounts, as these often change between credit providers as the plan matures through time. Remember that you are responsible for meeting the terms of the court order.  The PDA process manages that administration and can also be cheaper than the bank fees of managing all the payments yourself.

If you have been paying directly, and have settled all your debts, you need to ask your creditors for a paid-up letter for each account.  If your original debt counsellor is not contactable, then you can transfer to a new debt counsellor to issue the clearance certificate.  Some debt counsellors offer this clearance certificate service to non-customers, but could charge a fee that can come to around R1 000. You could also apply the NCT to obtain a clearance certificate. This is issued to all creditors, credit bureaus and the National Credit Regulator’s debt system in order to remove the debt review flag.

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