‘Am I entitled to a refund if I change my mind about an item I bought?’

A retailer is legally required to offer a replacement, refund or repair only if an item is faulty

There is nothing in UAE law that gives the consumer the right to a refund if they change their mind about a purchase. Getty Images
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I bought a bedding set but when I got it home, I realised that it was not the right colour for the room. I went back to the store the next day with the sales receipt and asked for a refund. However, the staff refused to give me my money back. Is there a consumer law that I can use to claim a refund? ST, Ras Al Khaimah

There are laws in place to protect consumers and these have been around for many years. This comes under Federal Law (24) of 2006 and is overseen by the Consumer Protection Department of the Ministry of Economy. The law has since been supplemented by an Executive Regulation of 2017 and a further refinement was announced in 2019.

The law states that if an item is faulty, the retailer must offer a replacement, refund or repair, depending on the nature of the problem. But there is nothing in the law that gives the consumer the right to a refund if they change their mind. Some retailers have a policy of permitting refunds in such situations, but that is their in-house decision and not mandated under UAE law.

In this case, ST is not entitled to a refund under law. But if the item is unopened, she could ask the store for a credit note or to exchange it, although they are not legally obliged to comply. It is wise to check a store’s refund policy at the time of purchase.

My company has made my role redundant due to the implications of Covid-19. I have a personal loan with a local bank but have always been regular in my payments. I intend to fulfil my loan commitments and keep paying the instalments regularly from wherever I will be placed.

In the next few days, my final salary will be paid to my current account, from which my loan payments are deducted. My end-of-service benefits will also be credited in the next few weeks. It will be a considerable sum but won’t be enough to repay the debt in full.

My concern is that the bank could put a travel ban on me even though I have never missed a payment. Can they do that? If yes, how long will the bank take to enforce the ban? MO, Dubai

When a payment is marked “final salary”, it is normal for a bank account to be frozen, especially if there is an outstanding debt. In many cases, the lump sum payment will be applied to the loan to reduce its value. There is likely to be a clause in the terms and conditions to this effect.

A bank cannot take much action against the customer until the person has missed three repayments, but it can apply for a travel ban. A bank has to apply to the court to put a travel ban on an individual after giving good reasons on why it believes the customer is likely to leave without paying off the loan.

The court does not approve all such cases. If a person has never missed a payment and an end-of-service gratuity is applied to substantially reduce a debt, this reduces the chances of the bank requesting a travel ban and the court approving it. If debt payments have been made regularly, there is no reason why the bank should have an issue in this situation.

I was deported from the UAE for a minor assault. An Abu Dhabi court imposed a lifetime ban on me in 2009-2010, although I had no previous criminal history.

I understand that there are new UAE laws relaxing some rules and punitive exemptions. Will I be able to get a pardon and re-enter the UAE? FK, Pakistan

If an individual is deported from one GCC country, they are likely to be blacklisted in other countries in the region as well

When someone has been deported from the UAE following a criminal case and informed that they have a lifetime ban, this prevents them from returning to the country for any reason. This is stated in Federal Law No 6 of 1973 and Ministerial Decree 83 of 2002, which states that a number of classes of people are prohibited from entering the UAE. This includes individuals who were involved in criminal activities and were deported in accordance with UAE government orders.

As the authorities will have taken an eye scan and fingerprints and kept these on record, it is impossible to re-enter the UAE if a person has a permanent ban, whether as a visitor or for residency without an official pardon. I understand that an appeal can be made but FK would need to engage a lawyer and the costs will be substantial with no guarantee of success.

FK must also note that if an individual is deported from one GCC country, they are likely to be blacklisted in other countries in the region as well.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only