The Debt Panel: 'My bank ignored requests to cancel my credit card and charged me a renewal fee'

Despite clearing the card before leaving the UAE, the former Dubai resident now owes Dh1,663 in late charges and interest on the annual renewal fee

Steven Castelluccia / The National
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I left the UAE in March 2020 after resigning from my job because my company didn’t support working from home at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. I have no plans to return in the near future.

Before leaving the UAE, I closed all outstanding debts. However, due to the Covid-19 situation, I was unable to make a request via my bank’s customer care service to cancel my credit card.

After arriving home in India, I was able to lodge this request over the phone. Despite multiple follow-up attempts with customer care, I never received a call back on my number in India to confirm the cancellation of the card. Now, the bank has charged me late fees and interest against the card’s annual renewal fee. This amounts to Dh1,663.40.

I am not in Dubai, do not use this card, cannot make this payment for card renewal and need the card cancelled immediately. I don't understand why it is so difficult to cancel a card even after numerous expensive overseas calls. During my last communication with the bank, they threatened to lodge a police case and travel ban against me, among other punitive actions.

All outstanding dues were paid on the card and I froze it to avoid any possible fraudulent activity. How can the bank charge me a renewal fee plus interest and late payment charges when I requested that it be cancelled? Can you advise me on my rights? AJ, India

Debt panellist 1: Philip King, head of retail banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank

You have done the right thing by taking responsibility and paying off all your outstanding dues prior to leaving the UAE. Your sense of accountability and commitment to finding a solution for this issue should benefit you when speaking to your bank.

Firstly, it is highly recommended that you continue contacting your bank, explaining that you have already sent multiple requests to cancel your card, have no outstanding dues to pay and no intention of using the card anymore. Also, reiterate that you no longer reside in the UAE due to your resignation and circumstances pertaining to Covid-19.

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Now that you've tried to work through this with the bank with no success, you may have to file a formal complaint to get to a solution

It is usually sufficient to have your outstanding balances paid and to send a cancellation letter for the bank to confirm the request. However, you will need to refer back to the terms and conditions of your card for additional clarity on this situation. It would also be helpful to keep a record of your correspondence with the bank, which will help show your commitment to finding a fair resolution.

If your bank remains unhelpful, you may consider filing a complaint with the Central Bank of the UAE's Consumer Protection Department, which launched a new complaint management system in August 2020. The new system allows you to log a complaint if your bank has not accepted a complaint or provided you with a final response within 30 days of receipt.

You will need to provide your complaint reference number, along with proof of your efforts to contact the bank, for the Consumer Protection Department to follow up on your case.

Debt panellist 2: Ambareen Musa, founder and chief executive of Souqalmal.com

It does look like quite a few factors have come into play in this case. The fact that you requested the cancellation of your credit card after leaving the UAE made you miss out on some important checks.

Since your UAE number was probably no longer working, you may have missed notifications or authentication calls from the bank, which in turn could have obstructed your request. You should also have kept your bank in the loop about your plans to move back home. This could have helped kick-start the process of closing all loans, accounts and credit cards you hold in the country.

Now that you've tried to work through this with the bank with no success, you may have to file a formal complaint to resolve the issue. Did you receive any email or request number on the phone from the bank confirming that they've received your cancellation request? You may be liable to pay any interest/fees incurred on your credit card account before this date. You need to gather proof of all communication between you and the bank to support your case.

It's important to note that the Consumer Protection Department amended its complaint management system in August 2020. To resolve any grievance, you must first lodge a formal complaint with your bank.

Thereafter, you can file a complaint with the CPD in three scenarios: If the bank refuses to accept the complaint, or if it does not resolve it within 30 calendar days from the date of receipt, or if you are not satisfied with the resolution. You will be asked to provide the complaint reference number given by your bank in order to submit your complaint with the CPD.

When you have confirmation from the bank that your credit card account has been closed and you've received a "No Liability" or "No Dues" certificate from it, only then can you be 100 per cent sure that you have no sneaky credit card balance to worry about.

Debt panellist 3: Stuart Ritchie, director of wealth advice at AES

Given you’ve settled all outstanding debts on your card, you are well within your rights to expect your bank to cancel it. Typically, banks require a written request for termination, which can either be done by downloading a card closure form from their website, or by contacting the card issuer directly about the exit process.

Do bear in mind that this process can take a minimum of 45 days in some cases to ensure all dues have been cleared, no future payments are scheduled and you, as the cardholder, are not liable to pay any other charges.

Based on your question, it appears you have done the above multiple times. You therefore may want to register a formal complaint with your bank in order to resolve your situation. To do so, however, they will require all the information regarding your case.

Take the time to make a detailed record of your communication with the bank regarding your situation ahead of pursuing a complaint. Once you have done this, ask for documented proof that they received your complaint and are proceeding to take action as it is their responsibility to try and resolve your issue.

You will also need proof of your card cancellation and clearance once the card has been cancelled.

Alternatively, if you feel the bank is not acting upon your request and the case hasn't been resolved, you can either file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Department via its website or by calling the toll-free number 800 CBUAE.

It is important to note that a complaint can only be registered with the Consumer Protection Department when the matter has been dealt with by the bank, but remains unresolved. The department will then determine if there has been a breach of the law and deal with it once identified.

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 pf@thenational.ae

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