What happens when you and one of the banks you’ve dealt with don’t agree on something? What if that disagreement affects your credit report with Al Etihad Credit Bureau? For anyone, that would probably be a stressful situation. Happily, it needn’t be, as there are five simple steps that can be taken to resolve bank disputes in the UAE.
Take this scenario. Mohammed has lived in Dubai for more than a decade. He falls into a category euphemistically referred to as “Expat Arabs”. If you are one, you know what this is. And if you aren’t, you know that it refers to “non-Khaleeji” Arabs – people who speak Arabic, but come from either North Africa or the Levant, not the GCC countries.
Mohammed (or Mo, to his large circle of friends) works as a sales supervisor for a local group, and makes a decent wage. He sends money home every month (or most months), and he likes the finer things in life. His friends always pull his leg about the large watch, or the latest cell phone that Mo is known to flash. As a result, Mo has several credit cards, and he is constantly adding new ones to his collection (and occasionally cancelling those cards that he no longer uses). Now, he has four active cards, but also has a personal loan, a car loan, and a line of credit.
Mo receives a call from a credit card sales rep who offers him a credit card with a limit of AED 100,000 and an amazing offer – he could transfer balances from his other cards at 0% interest rate for 6 months. Indeed, according to Mahmoud Kassem, writing for The National in April, “while banks have become reluctant to give out business loans, they are having no qualms about increasing the size of their credit card business.“
After speaking to his friend who works in another bank, Mo decides to take this new card and consolidate the balances from his four credit cards into one. His friend has warned him that those outstanding balances can get really expensive over time, so Mo has decided to do the responsible thing and settle up with a zero-cost card that he can more easily service. He calls up the sales rep who comes right over to collect his documents, and to get him to sign an application form. He assures Mo that the card will be approved very quickly, perhaps within 48 hours.
Two days later, Mo picks up a call from the sales rep with a pleasant feeling of anticipation. This feeling evaporates quickly as the sales rep informs him that he has been refused the new card because his credit report from Al Etihad Credit Bureau shows that he has seven credit cards!
Mo is bewildered. Seven cards? What should I do now, he wonders?
Mo makes his way to the Bureau office and applies for his Credit Report, because the bank won’t share their copy with him. It wouldn’t have helped him even if they had, because the data in the report they pull is masked, so he wouldn’t have been able to see which cards were still showing as open.
It takes him only five minutes, but his report opens his eyes forever. Not only were his current cards showing up, there were three other cards that he had closed two or three years ago! Mo is upset. After the customer service agent explains the process, Mo realises what he has to do:
- Contact each of the banks with which he had cancelled cards, and request them for “no-liability” letters. Each of the banks take between three and five working days to provide those letters.
- Mo then brings the letters back to the Bureau, and along with the credit report he had pulled earlier, he files disputes for each of the “closed” cards. NOTE:
- This Dispute Resolution service is provided free-of-charge by the Bureau to anyone who has an issue of this nature with a financial institution in the UAE.
- Mo could have filed his disputes through e-mail, but he preferred to do it in person. Before he leaves the Bureau, he receives three different dispute IDs.
- He was also requested to wait 20 working days before following up by e-mail, since that is the time that banks are allowed to take in resolving outstanding issues like these. Relieved, Mo goes home wishing he had known about this earlier, and realising that if this had been a real emergency, one where he needed funds urgently, he would have been in real trouble.
- A week later, Mo receives an e-mail from the Bureau informing him that all three disputes had been validated by the banks, and new files with his updated information had been received.
- Mo goes back to the Bureau and buys another Credit Report. It shows his current status accurately. He calls the sales rep and sends him a copy of the report. The new card is approved a day later, and finally Mo is able to put his plan to consolidate his cards – and save a ton of money – into action.
All’s well that ends well. Right?
The reality is that Mo was lucky in more ways than one. His need was not an emergency. If it had been, if he had needed the funds to pay for life-saving surgery for his father, for example, the story could have had a tragic ending. According to Sonja Stephen, writing for compareit4me.com, “When it comes to money matters, it’s all about finding and maintaining a healthy balance. You should always own and control your money, not the other way round.”
In addition, the situation was resolved in a week. Again, the reality is that some disputes stay open for weeks, sometimes months, as some financial institutions struggle to update the information in out-of-date systems, using ageing processes that are bank-centric, not customer-driven.
To help make things easier for banks to provide updated data, the Bureau has introduced powerful new tools that make updating information a piece of cake for even the most sluggish banks to implement. As more and more institutions embrace these new dispute resolution tools, things will become faster and easier, and long-running disputes will hopefully become things of the past.
But until then, I always recommend that you pull your credit report at least once in six months. Manage your financial situation proactively, and avoid unpleasant surprises when you least expect or need them. And if there are any such surprises in your report, at least you know, and you can do something about it before it becomes an issue.
So, what are you waiting for? Go, pull your credit report. Because knowledge really is power.