'How do I secure a refund on credit card insurance cover I did not want?'

The Dubai resident claims her lender started charging the premiums without her consent in April 2018

FILE - In this June 15, 2017, file photo, a customer inserts a credit card to buy gas in Haverhill, Mass. It’s always good to pay off your credit card debt, but now may be a better time than ever to do so. Americans’ debt levels have been creeping back up recently and interest rates are expected to rise soon. That’s a combination that could put consumers in a bind if they’re carrying a balance on their cards. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

I bank with Emirates NBD and have a credit card with them. I have been charged insurance premiums on my card since April 2018, but did not agree to this. I contacted the bank several times requesting this to be stopped and that a full refund is paid. My requests for a call back are not heeded and when I call to follow up, I am told someone has tried to contact me even though I have no missed calls. How can I stop the bank charging me for something I do not want? IS, Dubai

I contacted Emirates NBD and the bank contacted Ms S the same day to advise she would receive a refund and that it would show on her next statement. The bank said: "We would like to clarify that Ms S has held an Emirates NBD Go4it Platinum Visa credit card since July 2016. The customer's credit card is auto-enrolled for Lifestyle Protector Insurance at the time of activating the card. Lifestyle Protector is complimentary for the first two months, post which a monthly Premium is charged at 0.99 per cent of the outstanding balance at a billing cycle. The customer can at any time contact the bank's call centre to request for the cancellation of the insurance. Moreover, a detailed flyer is sent to customers as part of the card welcome pack, which lists the plan charges and benefits.

"On February 2018, the bank reached out to the customer offering an upgrade of the insurance cover to a revised plan called Protect Plus. Our investigation into call records reveal that Ms S gave clear consent to proceed with the upgrade. Ms S was clearly explained the plan benefits and charges on the call. Premium charges for Protect Plus are similar to Lifestyle Protector, which is 0.99 per cent of the card statement outstanding. A two-month free review period is offered and the customer is charged subsequently."

The bank said Ms S requested cancellation of her Protect Plus Insurance on July 2. "Consequently, we attempted to reach her on July 8 and 9, 2019. As the bank calls went unanswered, we proceeded with the cancellation of Protect Plus coverage on July 11, 2019.

"Ms S’s claim of any lapse or mis-selling from Emirates NBD is unfounded. However, as a service gesture and considering the customer’s relationship with Emirates NBD, the bank has agreed on an exceptional basis to refund the Protect Plus Premium charges plus applicable VAT,” Emirates NBD said.

While Ms S says she is glad to be receiving the refund, she has no recollection of being told about these charges.

I have been contacted by a number of readers facing similar issues with several banks, stating they never agreed to the insurance cover. Banks need to be clearer regarding such issues and it would be preferable for customers to actively choose insurance cover rather than automatically being opted in with the onus on them to take action to opt out.

I am a UAE residence visa holder, working and living in Abu Dhabi. I also do online trading and may start making some income. I do not wish to do my job anymore but want to stay in Abu Dhabi. If I leave my job and don't take up employment elsewhere, can I still get a residence visa for myself and my wife? SC, Abu Dhabi

Although the majority of UAE expatriates are sponsored by their employer or spouse, there are other options. One is to own a property in certain emirates with a value in excess of Dh1 million but that requires an income from other sources. More popular is to set up your own business. This must be done properly by obtaining a trade licence and then a linked visa. The best type of trade licence depends on the activity and the costs will also vary. Some businesses require a mainland licence, usually with a local sponsor, others can be set up via one of the many free zones although not all free zones permit all activities. For a small number of activities, freelance visas are available. The costs will vary depending on requirements but are not insignificant and licences must be renewed annually for a further fee.

I suggest SC speaks to a business set-up specialist about the options to find the best way to run his own business.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 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