In the 2001 INSOL International Consumer Debt Report: Report of Findings
and Recommendations, the view was held that the solution to overspending and
over-indebtedness is inter alia to be found in the idea that prevention is better than
cure. Ex ante responsible lending practices as preventative measures to avoid
reckless credit granting and over-indebtedness are arguably more important tools
in establishing a healthy credit market than ex post measures. The focus of this
contribution, is therefore, to provide a detailed overview of the South African
reckless credit regime as a debt- prevention measure aimed at promoting responsible
lending, with specific focus on the aspect of pre-agreement assessment as a
core mechanism to avoid reckless credit granting and over-indebtedness. The
main features of the reckless credit regime are highlighted, and afterwards, a
detailed exposition of the evolution and extensive recent development of the
pre-agreement assessment component in South Africa is undertaken. Finally,
observations are made regarding the South African reckless regime in general
and with regard to affordability assessment specifically and its ability,
benchmarked against the essential features of a responsible lending regime as
advocated by Wilson in the book ‘International responses to issues of credit and
over-indebtedness in the wake of crisis’, to promote responsible lending. The conclusion
is reached that benchmarked against the four characteristics of an effective
responsible lending regime as identified by Wilson, it is apparent that the South
African reckless lending regime is no ‘toothless tiger’, and that it attaches the necessary
amount of significance to the credit provider’s duty to take reasonable steps
to do a proper pre-agreement assessment in order to avoid reckless credit
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