NCR’s muted #onlinepresence contributes to under-delivery against its mandate

The screaming title was splashed across many newspapers this past Wednesday: Half of South Africa’s consumers battle to pay debts. South Africa has 20 million consumers who have bought on credit. The black line in the graph below clearly indicates the worsening situation of those who cannot honour their debts.

 Percentage of Impaired Consumer Records

[progress_bars type=’normal’] [progress_bar title=”JUN’13” percent=”48″ color=” background_color=” top_gradient=” bottom_gradient=”] [progress_bar title=”JUN’12” percent=”46″ color=” background_color=” top_gradient=” bottom_gradient=”] [progress_bar title=”JUN’11” percent=”47″ color=” background_color=” top_gradient=” bottom_gradient=”] [progress_bar title=”JUN’10” percent=”45″ color=” background_color=” top_gradient=” bottom_gradient=”] [progress_bar title=”JUN’09” percent=”41″ color=” background_color=” top_gradient=” bottom_gradient=”] [/progress_bars]

The National Credit Regulator (NCR) was established in 2005 to regulate the South African credit industry. As part of its mandate, the NCR is tasked with educating consumers on debt management and related matters. This task is most crucial in this season of giving, when most of us will be spending without a care in the world about the consequent debt burden. If the graph above is anything to go by, the NCR is not winning in its task to encourage consumers to refrain from spending more than they are earning, leading to the increasing bad debt situation currently experienced.

Moneyweb published an article in March this year, which indicated that the average age of SA’s indebted consumer has fallen from 42 to 34 in the last 5 years. News24 published an article in July, the Saving Month, indicating that there is explosion of debt in the 18-25 year group. The concern here is that indebted consumers who will get into trouble due to inability to pay their debts are increasingly younger, and this will effectively rule them out of the economy early, as they will get blacklisted with credit bureaus and thus they will not be able to buy a house or start a business; both of which are typically secured on credit. In some cases, the blacklisted consumers may not even get a job as companies include credit status in a prospective employee’s background check. You can read about the proposed amnesty meant to lighten the burden of blacklisted consumers by clicking here, and see if you can make sense of it.

A QUICK RECAP. The NCR has a duty to educate SA’s consumers who are intending to buy on credit, or who are already indebted, about credit management. In doing so, the NCR needs to be aware that the average age of indebted consumer is becoming younger. However, the bad debt situation is getting worse, and this is a worrying trend.  Now about the subject of this post. When you open the NCR Website and look lower right, you will notice that there are 4 social network buttons:

<img src="ncr_home_page_dec_2013.PNg" alt="NCR home page - December 2013">
NCR home page – December 2013

Try and click on anyone of these social buttons, and you will notice that they are all inactive. Needless to say, NCR is either not present, or not active on anyone of the social networks displayed on its Website. So as things stand, the only way South Africans can reach the NCR online is through its Website, which platform can do with some TLC. One wonders why the NCR is not active on social media in the execution of its mandate, especially given that indebted consumers are increasingly becoming younger and thus would potentially be found on social networks in greater numbers? The graph below shows that the NCR is hardly mentioned on Twitter (see the GREEN line), which indicates that the regulator does not have a desired social presence, and this is partly due to absence of registered Twitter handle that is actively used to engage on the subject of debt management.

<img src="Social_Mentions_Debt_vs_NCR_November_2013.png" alt="Social Mentions - Debt vs NCR; November 2013">
Twitter Mentions: Debt vs NCR; November 2013 (source: TopsyPro) (Click on image to enlarge)


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