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In tough times, consumers are better with credit

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Credit-active consumers showed some positive trends in the fourth quarter of 2015, but data from Compuscan points to the fact that a number of consumers are still in a position of financial strain.
The economy, no doubt, continued to play a large influencing role in consumers’ ability to keep their heads above water. Over the period of a year (from Q4 2014 to Q4 2015), the number of credit-active consumers increased by 1,7-million, taking the total number of recorded credit-active consumers as at the end of Q4 2015 up to approximately 27-million.
The steady increase in this number over time has likely been as a result of consumers gaining easier access to credit. It could furthermore be attributed to consumers who were previously not old enough to access credit, opening clothing, cellular or satellite TV accounts, amongst other account types.
This increase was noted despite the implementation of the National Credit Amendment Act and Regulations, which has made documentation such as proof of income or bank statements a requirement when applying for credit. Increases of this kind are in fact positive as access to credit ultimately leads to economic growth.
Interestingly, while there was a 4% increase in the number of mortgage accounts of less than or up to R300 000 listed as open on the bureau, there was an 8% decrease in the number of Vehicle and Asset Finance (VAF) accounts of less than or up to R50 000 as at the end of Q4 2015, when compared to Q3 2015.
There was also a decrease of 4% in the number of VAF accounts of R51 000 to R100 000.
All other financial categories of VAF accounts, up to R1-million and over, saw an increase in the percentage of accounts that were listed as open on the bureau in the last quarter of the year, compared to Q3 2015. This could be indicative of the fact that lower-income consumers experienced more financial pressure during this period.
While the rate of new adverse enforcements being listed against various account types decreased, Compuscan’s data did reflect a 12% increase in fixed term (short term) accounts with adverse enforcement statuses. This could also point to the fact that consumers have been under strain.
Comments Senior Data Analyst at Compuscan, Jacobus Eksteen: “In general, we did not see massive shifts between the third and fourth quarters of 2015. In fact, repayment behaviour amongst credit-active consumers seemed to be relatively stable, despite the weak state of the economy. While this doesn’t disprove that consumers experienced the impact of tough financial times, it could indicate that consumers are becoming more aware of the need to manage their credit wisely. Nevertheless, with inevitable increases in electricity tariffs as well as food and fuel prices, it is now more important than ever for consumers to manage their savings and expenses wisely, in order to maintain a good credit record or to improve upon it.”