x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Airport parking may be expensive, but this is beyond

Have a problem? Been treated unfairly? Our consumer advocate is on the case for you.

I recently took a three-day business trip to Saudi Arabia and chose to fly Etihad for the first time. The service and facilities were first class, with one notable exception. As I collected my car from the car park, I was presented with a bill for Dh810 - a shocking figure, equal to half the cost of the actual flight! When I complained to Etihad about the cost of parking, they simply blamed the airport. Etihad will not win customers and Terminal 3 will remain empty, unless they resolve simple issues such as reasonable parking at each terminal. Please pass on my comments to Etihad. Potential customers should be aware. JA Dubai

The parking lots at Abu Dhabi International Airport are, in fact, run by the Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) and not Etihad Airlines. It has taken several months to obtain a formal response from the company. Shirley Smith, a manager for the subsidiary organisation responsible for airport parking, commented as follows: "We closely monitor the parking tariffs for all international airports, paying close attention to airports within the UAE and the region, and we are confident that the convenience and choice of parking options at Abu Dhabi International Airport offers the best value ... It seems that in this case the traveller did not make use of the long-term parking option, which is priced to accommodate overnight and extended periods of travel." Incidentally, it costs Dh5 per hour - Dh120 per day - to park in the long-term lots at the Abu Dhabi airport, which is a good discount from the Dh240 daily fee to use the main car park but does not compare favourably to most international airports, as you can see in the chart below. When you add that many car parks at major airports have cheaper, off-site competitors, Abu Dhabi's airport parking seems quite overpriced. Travellers who live in the capital would probably pay less by parking at home and taking a taxi or bus to and from the airport, unless they only need to use the car park for a day or two.

I bank with HSBC. Using the internet, I tried to make a transfer to my son who is studying in Paris. I filled in all the online forms and followed the instructions carefully. At one point, the site asked me to choose who would pay "Overseas charges", to which I could select either "Party receiving funds" or "Party sending funds". Next to this field there were instructions, exactly quoted: "HSBC Premier customers should select charges "OURS" i.e. party sending funds for payments made within the HSBC Group as such charges will be borne by HSBC." My son has an account with HSBC France in Paris and I have a so-called Premier account. But when I followed up on the transfer, I was surprised to see that I was charged Dh140. I called the toll-free number and spoke with four different customer service operators. The last one said he would have to get back to me later. He took my mobile number, but never called back. Then I emailed my bank adviser. Here is a copy of her reply: "With regard to the Transfer, Dh140 was charged as Dh40 as our bank charges and Dh100 was charged for other bank charges. If you have chosen "overseas charges to be paid by party receiving funds", only Dh40 will be deducted from you. Hope this clarify your query." So I could solve the problem by charging my son! Surely this is not correct? SH Abu Dhabi

The matter was passed to HSBC and they have responded as follows: "Our customer made telegraphic transfers via our personal internet banking to a third party's account with the HSBC Group and was charged for the transfer. We accept that the customer was charged in error and have arranged to reverse the overcharge. We apologise for the inconvenience the customer has experienced. We have contacted the customer and explained the above. The customer has confirmed her satisfaction with the resolution."

I've had a recent incident with a well-known supermarket located in Abu Dhabi. Three weeks ago, I bought a newspaper for Dh3 and searched for the Properties pages in front of the salesman. I soon realised that there were no properties page because it was Friday, and I asked the salesman to take back the paper and let me purchase something else against the value. He told me that in his view, newspapers should not taken back once sold. I left the paper in front of him, and the next day I lodged a complaint to his manager. According to him I have every right to get back my money because the salesman made a mistake. He promised to take action and call me back on my mobile. No call was received for two days, so I called him and he forwarded my case to the chairman's secretary. That gentleman also promised to call me back, but I have not heard anything. KPM Abu Dhabi

There was nothing wrong with the newspaper itself, so under the UAE consumer laws the store has no obligation to exchange it or to refund the purchase price. A store might agree to do this as a goodwill gesture and not as a legal requirement. It is disappointing that calls have not been returned by the store, but in these cases it is the purchaser's responsibility to check that he has the correct item, whatever the price.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write her at keren@holbornassets.com Letters can also be sent to onyourside@thenational.ae