x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Housing costs and the fear of frozen funds

I work for a company that employs some people who don't get any housing provided or housing allowance. If this is illegal, what steps can these people take to ensure some redress?

I work for a British company in the UAE and it employs some people who don't get any housing provided or housing allowance. If this is illegal, what steps can these people take to ensure some redress? These people are all recruited locally. LA Abu Dhabi Contrary to the perception of many people there is absolutely no legal requirement for companies to pay a housing allowance or to provide accommodation for their staff. The days when the UAE was considered a hardship posting are gone and now people moving here should look at the total package that they are being offered before accepting a job. I need to get a UAE driving licence, but how in the world is it possible that my country exists on a list in Dubai, but not in Abu Dhabi? Isn't this the same exact country? If Portugal is not on the Abu Dhabi list I will be forced to go back to driving school and take an exam, not to mention have to pay considerable sums of money for this whole process. I feel slightly miffed over this situation. Less than two hours away in Dubai, my licence is perfectly acceptable. Is there any way, shape or form I can get around this as it seems very unfair for the rules to be so very different in another emirate in what is supposed to be the United Arab Emirates.

MR Abu Dhabi Having investigated this matter, I can confirm that while a Portuguese licence is indeed acceptable in Dubai, it has been removed from the list of accepted overseas licences in Abu Dhabi. It appears that the list will become even shorter as I was told that Spain would also be removed soon. When I asked why there were such differences between the emirates I was simply told by the Abu Dhabi Police "that is our rule". In order to obtain a driving licence in the UAE, you need to be a resident, with a residence visa issued in any of the emirates. However, if you are a resident of one emirate but have a visa issued in another, you need to obtain a transferal form allowing you to obtain your driving licence from the former. The minimum age for obtaining a driving licence is 18 years. An international driving licence is valid for use only up to the date on which you obtain your residence visa, after which you will need to apply for a UAE licence. It seems, therefore, that Ms R, as the holder of an Abu Dhabi residence visa, has no option but to go through the full process of applying for a licence, including taking both theory and practical tests with all the attendant costs.

I upgraded my Al Shamil internet from 256 to 512kbps. Included in the package is an e-mail upgrade from 50MB to 250MB of space. I had asked for the upgrade by phone on Dec 28, and while the internet speed was upgraded within three days, the email upgrade to 250MB is not yet done. I have been following this up with Etisalat for the past two months with fax complaints and branch visits and calls to customer support - but all in vain. I fail to understand why an organisation like Etisalat would show a blind eye to such basic flaws in their systems and processes.

RVR Abu Dhabi Mr V has been paying the increased fee of Dh189 per month since December and despite numerous calls he was getting nowhere, having been given half a dozen different reasons for the delay. It seems surprising that only half the upgrade was provided. I took this matter up with Etisalat on his behalf, and after two weeks, I have been informed by a spokesperson: "The issue has been resolved by Etisalat. The subscriber's account has been upgraded as per the package and he is satisfied now."

I then spoke to Mr R, who has confirmed that while the upgrade has finally taken place, he is not satisfied as he paid additional costs for a service which was not provided for over two months. I have raised this matter with Etisalat as it seems only right that he should receive at least a partial refund for the two months in question, but I am still awaiting a response. I have an account with HSBC in Dubai, but having nearly been badly burnt by Landsbanki, I wouldn't want this to happen again. How secure are banks in the UAE in general and HSBC specifically?

TH Dubai Landsbanki is the Icelandic bank that found itself in severe financial difficulties at the end of 2008, which caused deposits to be frozen. I initially contacted HSBC regarding this and they sent me the following standard e-mail. "With reference to your inquiry, please be informed that HSBC is one of the largest foreign banks in the UAE. It has been confirmed that the announcement relating to protection of deposits for the next three years will cover all UAE based deposits held by national banks and foreign banks which have significant operations in the UAE. In any event, HSBC Bank Middle East maintains strong capital and liquidity ratios in order to fully meet any and all its business obligations." The announcement to which they refer was the one made by the Government in Oct 2008 to guarantee bank deposits and protect national banks from credit risks. The UAE federal government will ensure that no UAE national bank will be exposed to credit risks, guarantee deposits and savings in all national banks, guarantee all interbank lending operations between banks operating in the UAE and inject sufficient liquidity in the financial system if and when necessary. Overall, HSBC is considered to be one of the more financially secure international banks with a healthier balance sheet than most.

Have a problem? If so, e-mail Keren Bobker at onyourside@thenational.ae Ms Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. She can be reached at keren@ holbornassets.com