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On Your Side: Bank bothers customer with 90 pointless calls

A bank called a customer about a bill that was already paid dozens of times.

Since the beginning of January, I have received 71 automatic calls from Emirates NBD's answering machine and 19 calls from actual people to tell me that there is an outstanding Dh200 charge on a car loan that ended last year. This loan was paid by post-dated cheques in fixed instalments and the last cheque cleared in October 2010. I have visited the Umm Sequim branch three times and spoken to three different people who are clueless as to who the people are on the phone. They tell me the same thing and still the phone calls keep coming. Can you help to resolve this issue? NM, Dubai

I referred the matter to Emirates NBD and within two days, NM received a call from someone at the bank confirming that his loan had been repaid in full and apologising for the time taken to resolve the issue. A representative for the bank said: "In this specific case, we have reviewed the particular facts, resolved this matter and communicated the same to NM. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and the customer for providing us with your feedback and regret any inconvenience caused." Fortunately, this particular problem was easily resolved, but it is the same problem that we keep encountering at branch level: lack of service, training and care. It would be helpful if banks addressed these ongoing issues.

I noted your recent answer regarding paying into a UK pension and wondered if there was a similar ruling for a UK Individual Savings Account (ISA). I am in my third year of living and working in the UAE and I am registered with Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as a non-resident for tax purposes. However, I pay UK tax on my military pension and on rental income from a UK property I own. When I moved here, I was paying 50 (Dh296) a month into an ISA. I understand that I cannot open an ISA, but can I continue to pay into it or increase the payments? DA, Dubai

Under HMRC rules, you must be a resident in the UK for tax purposes to be eligible to invest in an ISA (a UK-specific tax-efficient savings scheme) of any type. The only exception is for Crown employees or military personnel and their spouses. Because you are a UK non-resident, you should not be making any ISA contributions and any that you have made while you have been in the UAE should be refunded to you. You should notify the provider of your status. Any ISA plans that you set up and contributions that you made before you became a non-resident of the UK may continue and will retain their tax-free status. If you return to the UK and become a resident again, you can restart your contributions, subject to the annual limits.

I read with interest the article "Expatriates advised to learn laws on wills" in The National on February 5, but some things were unclear, such as the definition of "assets". The article said: "The probate process in the UAE begins with the freezing of the deceased person's assets." Does this mean only assets physically located in the UAE or all assets abroad as well, such as offshore accounts and property? For instance, if a husband is a resident here but is, say, of British origin and he dies in the UAE, does the law have power to freeze his UK assets as well as any he might have in the Emirates? MB, Abu Dhabi

The UAE authorities have jurisdiction over assets held in the UAE only and do not have the authority to freeze any assets held outside of the country. In the above example, if a husband dies and also has assets in the UK and/or offshore, these will be unaffected by UAE law. However, they will be subject to UK inheritance law. In this case, the term "assets" refers mainly to physical property such as a villa or apartment, cars and to any investments and bank accounts. Even if an account is held in joint names with the wife, she will not have access to any funds until such time as the court unfreezes it, assuming she will then be the beneficiary. Assets in the UK are not frozen on death and a spouse will generally have access. There is much misinformation bandied about regarding wills and the rules on death for expats, so it is important to take advice from someone who is experienced in these matters. I strongly recommend that wills are only arranged by experienced lawyers who understand the full implications of the laws in the relevant jurisdictions.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at keren@holbornassets.com with your questions for On Your Side

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