South African consumers are struggling to pay their bills

The latest findings from the research Consumer Pulse Report by TransUnion shows the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis on South African consumers has dropped drastically by 20 percentage points to 62%.

The majority (87%) of consumers however, remain concerned about their ability to pay their bills and loans.

Only 3% of surveyed households indicated that their finances have fully recovered from the negative impact of the pandemic, and just over half (51%) said they have not yet recovered.

Around three quarters (74%) of respondents said they have cut back their discretionary personal spending; 42% cancelled subscriptions/ memberships; and 38% have cancelled or reduced digital services, the report found.

The biggest household spending changes that respondents said they will make over the next three months to manage expenses is decrease discretionary personal spend (61%) and decrease in-store and online retail shopping purchases like clothing, electronics and durable goods (46%).

“We’re now a year into this study, and what it’s telling us is that while we’re seeing signs of consumer resilience as part of a broader recovery, South Africa’s economy and consumers are still under severe financial pressure,” said TransUnion South Africa’s head of financial services, Andries Zietsman.

“The biggest indicator of this is the fact that the majority of consumers are still struggling to pay their bills and loans on time, and credit providers are going to have to find innovative ways of managing this.”

How income decreased

The biggest household spending changes that respondents said they will make over the next three months to manage expenses is decrease discretionary personal spend (61%) and decrease in-store and online retail shopping purchases like clothing, electronics and durable goods (46%).

However, the proportion of negatively impacted consumers concerned about their ability to pay their bills and loans increased from 84% the week of 30 November to 87% in March. More than one in three impacted consumers (37%, up by six percentage points from the week of 30 November) expect to not be able to pay their bills and loans within one month.

Among consumers whose household income is currently decreased and have these bills/loans, the top ones that they said they will not be able to pay are mashonisa (informal) loans (46%), followed by personal loans and private student loans (both at 44%) and retail/clothing store accounts (39%).

Among all South African consumers, 39% said they are planning to pay partial amounts towards their bills or loans to remain current, while just under half of respondents (46%) report being past due on a bill or loan in the past three months.

Consumers plan for recovery

Consumers are adopting a range of strategies to deal with the financial impact of Covid-19. A third of negatively impacted consumers plan to pay their current bills and loans using savings, TransUnion said.

While 91% of responding consumers consider access to credit important – with 23% considering it extremely important – two-thirds of respondents have not considered applying for additional credit.

The primary reasons for not applying were the cost of new credit was too high (26%); or they believed their application would be rejected due to their income (32%) or their credit history (25%).

 

What has changed in your household budget?

“Consumers who think they are going to default on any payments in the coming months should contact their credit providers early. Don’t wait until you miss a payment before you get in touch to discuss potential options. It’s also important to check your credit report, particularly if you’ve defaulted on a payment or have had a judgment against you from the past,” said Zietsman.


Read: When not paying your TV licence can damage your credit record

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South African consumers are struggling to pay their bills