I currently live in Qatar, but have outstanding debts worth approximately Dh30,000 ($8,168) in the UAE. I had to urgently leave the UAE last year because my parents were unwell and quit my job.
I recently took up employment again, but on a far lower salary than what I earned in the UAE.
I have made irregular payments on my credit card debt since moving to Qatar to start my new job and am unsure exactly how much I owe if you factor in late fees and interest charges.
However, I intend to pay back my debt fully.
Debt collectors are now reaching out to the company I work for, causing embarrassment and harassing me.
Can I file a complaint against my bank in Dubai for being harassed?
Is it also possible to come to an agreement with the bank to pay off the debt, or is it too late now that debt collectors are involved? SM, Qatar
Debt Panellist 1: Steve Cronin, founder of DeadSimpleSaving.com
Many people have found themselves in this situation, leaving debt behind in the UAE, moving to another country and now finding that debt collectors have reached them.
It is also common for the debt collectors to contact your company, and sometimes even your family, to put maximum pressure on you.
Whether you can file a complaint depends on the level of harassment and laws in Qatar. If they are physically threatening you or trying to enter your home, there may be a case. But the debt collectors are probably good at staying on just the right side of the law.
You need to negotiate directly with your bank in the UAE – it is not too late. There are tales of people paying off debt collectors only to find the bank debt has not been cleared and their money was stolen.
You also need to act fast, as Dh30,000 on a credit card will grow rapidly: at least 40 per cent per year plus late fees.
Given the unfortunate circumstances of you leaving the UAE, the bank may be prepared to waive some or all of the fees and interest.
First, calculate how much you can pay off now as a lump sum.
If you can pay off the Dh30,000 in full, so much the better – the bank would be more likely to waive fees if you can pay off the original amount.
You may have to sell some assets or borrow from your family. Can you get a loan in Qatar? The rate on a personal loan would likely be significantly lower than on your credit card.
Next, prepare a summary of exactly what happened, your card details and an overview of your current financial situation, such as income, expenses and monthly savings.
Contact your bank in the UAE by phone – banks are not good at replying by email, unless you use the messaging service inside their online portal.
You will need to talk to the credit card department or the collections department. Be persistent, as this problem will not go away. If you are not making progress with the first person you speak to, try to speak to someone else later.
Get them to agree to a plan for the original debt amount, the fees and interest, regular payments if you can’t pay it off all at once, and removal of the debt collectors.
The card should be closed and, in the case of regular payments, converted into a personal loan at a lower interest rate.
Once the card is closed and you have paid off the loan, get a letter of no obligation, so that the card debt can’t reappear in the future due to a system error.
Debt panellist 2: Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching
You would require legal advice to file a complaint for harassment against your bank.
However, I would recommend raising an official complaint first with the complaints department of your bank.
Keep detailed records of your communication with the debt collectors and with your bank.
You will need this if you decide to raise a complaint with the Central Bank of the UAE. You can only do this 30 days after raising your complaint with your bank and if it remains unresolved after 30 days.
The fastest way to get rid of the debt collectors is to clear the debt.
It's often possible to negotiate a repayment plan with your bank even if debt collectors are involved.
However, the involvement of debt collectors might make the process more complex.
I recommend contacting your bank directly to discuss your situation, express your intention to repay and explore options for repayment.
They may be willing to work with you to come up with a mutually acceptable repayment plan.
Be prepared to provide documentation and information about your financial situation, such as your current income, expenses and any assets you may have.
Do you have access to cash you can use to pay off the debt, maybe from a family member?
Your debt will be accumulating expensive interest and penalties due to non payment so it’s important to tackle this urgently.
You might consider taking a consolidation loan and use the funds to pay off your UAE credit card debt.
Offering a lump-sum payment to the UAE bank may open up the possibility of a discount on your debt, waiving some of the fees and interest you will have accumulated.
This will also resolve the debt collector issue, control the amount of interest you are paying and provide structure to your debt repayments as you will have a set monthly payment to make and the interest rate is fixed.
It will no doubt reduce your stress and the inconvenience the current situation is causing.
Debt panellist 3: Keren Bobker, financial adviser and senior partner at Holborn Assets
I am pleased to read that you intend to repay your debts and it is never too late to come to an agreement with a bank.
Once a case has been passed to a debt collector, it is harder as the bank will often just refer you back to them.
However, you simply need to go higher than the employees in the debt collection department, who are not empowered to make real decisions. Attitudes vary by bank.
As for the debt collectors contacting your employer, that is not acceptable.
It is unprofessional and breaches data protection rules in the UAE. Even if you are in Qatar, the same rules should still apply and your personal information should not be shared with any other parties.
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I have come across companies trying this nasty tactic before and a message to both the bank and the agency pointing out the breach of law usually puts a stop to it as the UAE Central Bank takes a dim view of such behaviour.
You need to ensure that you specify that you are making a complaint for harassment and all banks should have a formal procedure to deal with complaints.
You need to contact the bank as soon as possible stating that you want to negotiate with it to settle the debt. They may say it is already with an agency but it can be taken back. If you have cash to make a lump-sum payment to get started, that will help.
While the general staff in the debt collection department are unable to make any decisions outside of the usual format, so will automatically say no, there are other options.
The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to email@example.com