On Your Side Plus questions about banks' policies in handling a transaction dispute and savings plans for expatriates answered by The National's consumer advocate.
Law says women should get equal pay for equal work
I work for a company in which a number of people do the same job, but I have recently discovered that all the men are paid more than the women. In my home country, this is illegal. Is there any rule about this in the UAE? SK, Dubai
Article 32 of the UAE Labour Law states: "A working woman shall be entitled to the same wage as that of a working man if she does the same work." Although the UAE does not have an equal pay act, which can be found elsewhere, this clause makes it quite clear that equal pay should apply for equal work. Your employer should be made aware of this clause. It is surprising just how many employers are not familiar with the UAE's Labour Law. If the company fails to comply, a complaint can be made to the Ministry of Labour.
I have an issue with my HSBC Premier credit card. A number of weeks ago, two fraudulent transactions were charged to my card (from an overseas merchant) without my knowledge. Fortunately, I found out immediately because I receive a text message from the bank on my mobile phone every time the card is used. I contacted the bank straightaway and the card was cancelled and a new one issued. I have submitted a dispute form to the bank confirming the details of the fraudulent transactions, but they are still showing on my online credit-card statement. It was my understanding that in situations such as this, the bank would immediately remove the transactions from the statement, with the onus then falling on the bank and merchant to ascertain whether the transaction had, in fact, been valid and if so, to then re-instate the amount. The bank has advised that it will take up to 180 days to investigate and during this time, the transactions will remain on my statement and must be paid by me. I will only receive a refund once the bank and merchant have satisfied themselves that the transactions were fraudulent. Is this normal and is the cardholder liable for interest during the investigation? I have another card with RAKBank and I'd be interested to know how it would handle the same situation. AM, Abu Dhabi
HSBC says it "follows the rules laid down by Visa and MasterCard" to ascertain where the error of fault lies. It adds: "The investigation process could take anywhere from 30 to 180 days, depending on the type of transaction, place, country and region of transaction, amount, type of card and type of terminal or machine used. These scenarios vary in nature and are governed by Visa and MasterCard. It is advisable that the customer pays the disputed amount to avoid accumulation of additional charges and if the decision is concluded in favour of the customer, a credit refund will be awarded. Should the customer decide not to pay any amount on the disputed transaction until the investigation is concluded, this will attract finance charges until a decision is made. If the decision is in favour of the customer, related finance charges from the transaction occurrence date would be reversed. However, in the case of an unfavourable decision, the original transaction amount, along with financial charges, continues to remain the customer's obligation." Ian Hodges, the head of personal banking at RAKBank, advised: "Each transaction is examined on a case-by-case basis. In the vast majority of cases where a RAKBank customer has been subject to credit-card fraud without compromising their card, the bank refunds the customer. The refund is normally made within a period of four working days from the date of the dispute form and any other relevant documents are received by the bank. On some occasions, the investigation requires a longer period of time, during which the customer is credited with the disputed amount to avoid inconvenience. The customer is not liable for any accrued interest on the transaction if it is found to be fraudulent."
I have read comments in your column about regular savings plans and you have said they should only be for the period that a person is resident in the UAE because of UK tax issues. The adviser I have been speaking to says this is not the case and I should take out a plan for 25 years, even though I have every intention of going back to the UK in seven years. He says I will be able to take some money out each year without any tax being payable and that such plans are suitable for me. AW, Abu Dhabi
If you return to live in the UK and continue with this type of offshore savings plan, you would have the option to take out 5 per cent of the amount invested, on an annual basis without having to pay UK income tax. Any more than that would give you a substantial tax liability. If you fully cashed in the policy as a UK resident, the proceeds would be taxable. If, however, you take out a shorter-term plan that matures prior to your return to the UK, you would be able to take back cash and invest this money in UK pensions and Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs), which have tax benefits as well as significantly lower charges than offshore plans. (Note that UK pensions and ISAs are not available to non-residents.) This gives you far more options, is significantly more tax efficient and, in your situation, offers better value for money. Sadly, many salespeople are still pushing long-term savings plans because they earn more commission for a 25-year plan than they do for one with a term of, say, five or 10 years, which tends to suit many expats far better.
On Your Side is written by Keren Bobker, an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at email@example.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.