On Your Side: Level term assurance policies do not give refunds

The National's consumer advocate on this plus issues with humidity can affect iPods and paying capital gains in the UK.

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I have a life policy with Friends Provident International that was set up a number of years ago. Because my circumstances have changed, I no longer need the policy and want to cancel it. I contacted the company, but I have been told that there is no money to come back to me. I thought I was due a sum of money on cancellation, but the company says this is not the case. Can you find out what is correct? KM Dubai

Having seen the formal documents relating to the original policy, I can see that KM has what is known as a level term assurance policy. This type of plan is designed to provide a set amount of life cover for a fixed term, selected at outset. It is a simple policy without any savings or investment element, which is particularly popular when cover is required for a specific term or purpose, such as linked to a mortgage or for when children are young. This tends to make it cheaper than other types of life cover. These plans never acquire a surrender value and so, while they can be cancelled at any time, policy holders will not receive any payment or refund from the insurance company.

I purchased an Apple iPod in April 2011 from Jumbo Electronics on Hamden Street in Abu Dhabi. In August 2011, the device kept locking up, so I sent it for repair, through Jumbo, to Arab Business Machines, which is the authorised repair agent of Apple. On August 20, I got the device back stating that the warranty was void as the "liquid indicator was red". I believe this occurred because of the humidity and the fact that I would listen to my iPod while exercising at night. In no way do I consider this constitutes misusing the device. As the humidity fell, my device began to work properly again. In December 2011, my device would not turn on. On December 20, I returned it to Jumbo, which sent it back to Arab Business Machines. However, it was not until February 7 that the device was returned to me. It had not been repaired and came with the same repair report that I received on August 20, which stated that the "liquid indicator was red" and the warranty was void. I now have a Dh700 device that is completely dead. I would like the device fixed or replaced. Also, Apple should warn purchasers that the device sold in the UAE is not fit for the environment in which it is required to operate. SN Abu Dhabi

This is a very sorry tale of poor, or non-existent, customer service. Although Jumbo appears to have acted properly in forwarding the device for repairs, its response claimed that "this is not a fault with the individual unit per se, but a product in line with Apple's quality standards and subject to its own restrictions. The unit when sent to the service centre was recognised as a utility issue and not an internal fault with the product." Jumbo suggested that SN contact Apple directly, which he duly did. The only response was that SN had voided the warranty by misuse, which he denies. I have attempted to contact Apple on behalf of SN, but apart from one cursory response from its UAE press office, my e-mails, of which there have been many, have been ignored. It is an appalling response from one of the world's best-known companies. SN also spoke with a representative from the Consumer Affairs Department at the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Economy. Interestingly, the representative mentioned that the department had received many complaints about humidity issues with devices, especially for iPhones. He suggested that Apple should let customers know this before they purchase these devices in the UAE.

I have read various queries about tax in the UK for Brits, but my situation is slightly different. I am Canadian, but it looks as if my employer will be sending me to the UK on a long-term contract. Because I am likely to be there for quite a few years, I am interested in buying a house in London. Will I be taxed on monies that I take into the country to use towards the purchase price? The money is mostly in the UAE and in an offshore bank account. Would I have to pay capital gains tax on this money? JP Dubai

Because you are not a UK resident, nor have you been at any point in the past five tax years, you would currently have no liability to UK capital gains tax provided you moved your money to the UK before your situation changes. The guidance, as published by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, states that you will become liable only once you become a UK resident and then only charged on gains arising from disposals made after the date of your arrival in the UK. You should note, however, that this is what is known as an "extra statutory concession" and is not a rule. But provided you move monies to the UK before taking up UK residency, you should not have an issue. The UK has a reputation for being generous to overseas investors based on this practice.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com