x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Trouble with debt? Seek counselling as soon as possible

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

I would appreciate it if you can answer some of my queries with regard to credit cards. I used cards to pay for the educations of my three children. But lately, my salary is not enough to make payments on all my credit cards, and I am being harassed by some banks because I had not been making the minimum payment, and there are also late-payment charges. Can you please advise me how to obtain the necessary payment restructuring with HSBC? The bank has repeatedly told me that they cannot restructure.

MC Abu Dhabi Although banks have been overly keen to give credit in recent years, there is also a responsibility upon the individual to repay monies borrowed. It has always been clear that loans and credit cards must be repaid, and it is foolish to borrow money without the means to repay it. Minimum payments on credit cards are generally low compared to the amount borrowed, and non-payment of this sum is a default and breach of the conditions.

The bank has the right to take action if non-payment continues. In many cases, a cheque is provided by the borrower as surety, and the bank can cash the cheque, so that either the outstanding amount is repaid from the individual's bank account or the cheque bounces, which will allow the bank to take legal action against a defaulting borrower. As MC mainly has outstanding debts with HSBC Bank Middle East, I put the query to the bank, which responded as follows: "Having sound credit policies will minimise risk and ensure healthy banking business. In uncertain times like we are experiencing today, it is all the more important that banks act prudently, and equally, that bank customers plan prudently for their financing needs. For those few customers who have difficulties making payments, HSBC has a specialised department which helps customers who are in those circumstances. We have a wide range of solutions to help people and the emphasis is to find a solution which best suits each customer and to implement that as soon as possible to avoid additional fees or distress.

We have a variety of solutions to offer and will listen to the customers, understand the problem and propose the right solution for them. Some customers are worried and may be reluctant to contact us; however, we would always recommend that they call us as soon as possible. Our experience is that early contact gives us a much better opportunity to help the customer. The debt counselling service is available on the following numbers: 04 390 6884/6805/1604. These lines are private and confidential."

I have been in Dubai for just over two years, but have been paying into a UK pension. Could you please confirm that I am allowed to do so as, unlike initially anticipated, I now do not see myself returning to the UK for many years. I am currently paying £200 (Dh1,177) a month to a plan I have had for more than 10 years. AV Dubai In most cases only limited ongoing pension contributions can be made to a UK pension plan while someone is non-resident. Provided a personal pension or stakeholder pension scheme was already in force on your departure from the UK, you may make contributions of up to £3,600 per annum for up to five years after your departure from UK residency. Basic rate tax relief is available at source, so the amount you may pay is £2,880, but the tax relief assessed at source means the amount credited to the plan would be £3,600. After the initial five-year period of non-residency has expired, contributions should cease. Different rules apply to company pension schemes.

I have seen a few people fishing off the breakwaters on Dubai beaches and would like to go fishing there myself. I was told by one fisherman that I do not need a licence, but can you confirm if that is correct before I buy any equipment? RO Dubai Dubai Municipality rules state that you should have a licence before fishing in the specific areas where this is permitted. I understand this is part of a federal decree and that the police beach patrols will occasionally check for licences. Applications are handled by the Environment Department and the following items are required: application form (available from municipality or on their website), copy of passport with residency visa, copy of labour card, copy of tenancy contract or DEWA bill if property owner, copy of your driving licence and two passport sized photographs. There are no fees. These items must be taken to counter 11 in the main Municipality Customer Service Centre on Baniyas Road in Deira. Working hours are 7.30am to 2.30pm, Sunday to Thursday. The department can be contacted on 04 206 4260, or via e-mail at marabdulla@dm.gov.ae

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