UAE banks suspend customers who did not share identity documents

Those who failed to share identity documents by the February 28 deadline set by the Central bank have had their accounts blocked

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - May 27, 2012 - People wait to be fingerprinted and photographed during the registration process for their Emirates ID card at the Emirates ID Authority in Al Barsha in Dubai City, Dubai, May 27, 2012. Some people had been waiting for an hour to register. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
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UAE banks have suspended services to customers who failed to comply with a Central Bank of the UAE directive to submit their Emirates ID.

Emirates NBD and Commercial Bank International confirmed on Wednesday that affected customers had not supplied their identity documents by the February 28 deadline stipulated by the Central Bank, and have since had their accounts blocked.

Shaker Zainal, head of retail banking at CBI said: “In accordance with the Central Bank of UAE’s guidelines, CBI introduced service disruption consequences for non-compliance. Debit and credit cards, including ATM cash withdrawals, were suspended post the February 28 deadline.”

A Central Bank circular in November, urged banks and finance companies to ensure customers update their records by the deadline to avoid repercussions. According to the directive, customers who failed to comply would be unable to withdraw money from automated teller machines and would have debit and credit card transactions blocked until they provide their Emirates ID.

The UAE Central Bank said the temporary suspension of ATM cards would not prevent customers from withdrawing cash directly at a bank's branch counter.

Suvo Sarkar, senior executive vice president, head of retail banking and wealth management at Emirates NBD, said “a small percentage of customer accounts have been suspended in line with the requirements”.

“As per Central Bank guidelines, customers who did not update their details within the given time frame faced suspension of their debit or credit card, following which the card cannot be used for any transaction, such as ATM cash withdrawals, retail purchases or e-commerce transactions,” he said. “As per the Central Bank regulation, the suspension remains in force until the customer updates their details with us.”

Mr Zainal said the suspension would remain in place until the Emirates ID information is supplied. Direct debit transactions have not been affected, he said.

“We track card declines resulting from the temporary blocks we enforced due to the missing Emirates ID information. We then immediately call these customers and provide various options to them to update their Emirates ID information quickly and securely, so that customers can choose their preferred method or channel,” Mr Zainal said.

Al Etihad Credit Bureau told The National in November it only has Emirates ID information for 85 per cent of the 4.5 million borrowers listed in its database. The remaining 15 per cent do not have identity data.

Many banks carried out extensive campaigns to alert customers of the new regulation. Mr Zainal said some customers failed to supply the documents because they “might have left the UAE, are travelling or busy”.

Mr Sarkar said while the vast majority of customers “were compliant” with the regulatory requirement, some "customers were unable to update their details on time, for instance, if they were travelling or otherwise indisposed, or their Emirates ID may be under process or being renewed”.