x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Don't forget to pay the full balance on your credit card

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

I hold a credit card issued by ABN Amro Bank (now RBS) in Dubai. I made a payment on my card when it was due, but fell Dh5 short. When the subsequent monthly statement showed an outstanding amount, I was charged a whopping Dh250 as a late payment charge. Deciding to contest, I made a minimum payment of Dh100 and spoke to their customer service officers. I was assured that their supervisor would call me, but the call never came. They have now sent me a letter asking that pay a total of Dh750 for additional late payments. They have also threatened to cash the security cheque I submitted with the bank card application and possibly press charges. I called customer service and they have accepted that there was no call back from their end and have apologised for the error. But at the same time they have mentioned that I must make this full payment to them. Keren, can you help?

PM Dubai The query was forwarded to RBS, as it seemed unfair to charge such a large penalty for a minor issue. Upon investigation, a spokesperson has advised as follows: "We were in receipt of this complaint from the customer in the month of September 2009 and advised him that the charges on his credit card were valid as he had not made the payment. Hence, further non-payment resulted in more bank charges on the credit card. Between June and September, the customer did not make an attempt to contact the bank again in order to find out the status of his card. We would also like to highlight that the customer has not notified the bank regarding the change of his job. After receiving this complaint, and given the scenario, we in good faith and as a service gesture have reversed the charges on the credit card. We have also contacted the customer and advised him regarding this. The customer is satisfied with the response." I have checked with PM and he has confirmed that he has been contacted, and he's happy with the outcome.

We lent a significant amount of money to a friend about eight months ago. The agreement was that it was short-term loan that would be paid back in a month. Here we are, seven months later, and the full amount has yet to be paid back. Can you tell us what our rights are here in UAE? It seems that our friend does not consider returning the loan a priority, and we are at loss as to how to retrieve this. We lent Dh100,000 and we have received just Dh27,000 back, and we've been endlessly promised that the remainder is coming and it will be paid. We have tried to enforce a plan of action with little success, and are now of a mind to push the issue further. I am not sure how the legal fraternity see this kind of debt, or whether we should just go to the police. I would appreciate any assistance you can give us.  

LN Abu Dhabi This issue was covered in a recent article in the Personal Finance section. The short answer is that LN has limited recourse in this situation. She has copies of e-mails showing what was agreed, and although these are technically enforceable in the UAE, it very much depends on what level of detail they go in to and the capabilities of the lawyers that are employed. A good lawyer could quite possibly have them dismissed as evidence, particularly from a non-work or unverifiable address. In this situation the police would not be able to assist, as there is no contract and thus it's not a criminal matter. Before lending anyone any money, it's advisable to sign a properly drafted contract, as drawn up by a lawyer. But a contract is only as good as the ability to enforce it, and the person must have the funds to repay. You would have to go through the process of suing, which is both costly and stressful, and has no guarantee of a successful outcome. I would suggest that the person lending the money obtain postdated cheques for the amount owed, or have the amounts due on very specific dates. That's the best action available, as a postdated cheque is effectively a form of guarantee, so that there are grounds for filing a compliant with the police if the loan is not repaid and the cheque bounces.

My daughter, who is 14 years old, would like to take on a part-time job one day a week after school. Can you tell me if this is allowed in the UAE? PM Dubai Under UAE Labour Law, it's not permitted to employ anyone under the age of 15, and even then strict rules apply regarding the employment of minors. Your daughter will have to wait awhile longer and then provide a number of items before she is allowed to work, including evidence of her age, her father's written permission and a certificate from a certified specialist doctor confirming that she is physically able to take on the proposed role. The maximum working hours are six per day, overtime is not permitted and certain activities are prohibited.

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