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UAE Banking Sector Gets an Ombudsman: What You Need to Know

In 2023, the Central Bank of the UAE issued Decision No. 1659/2023 to establish Sanadak, the Ombudsman Unit. Sanadak is the first financial and insurance ombudsman unit to be established in the MENA region. It aims to set the standards for excellence  in resolving consumer complaints through transparent, effective, and clear processes. The ultimate purpose of the ombudsman unit is to ensure trust in the financial sector of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

What is an Ombudsman Unit?

The Ombudsman Unit, or Sanadak as it is popularly known, is an independent neutral body established within the Central Bank of the UAE that mediates between the banks and their customers in resolving disputes arising from any banking transactions or services.

The Ombudsman Unit is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, which is faster, less costly, and less formal than court litigation.

Who can seek help from the Ombudsman Unit?

The parties that are entitled to file complaints with the Ombudsman Unit are regulated by the Central Bank Regulation. These include:

  • Customers banking with the UAE.
  • Small and Medium Enterprises within the UAE Registries.

What kinds of complaints can be submitted?

The complaints unit of the Ombudsman shall have the authority to entertain, inter alia, the following types of complaints:

  • Disputes for account charges and fees: The ombudsman has the right to decide the disputes over the fees charged by the bank for various services.
  • Unfair credit terms or credit card: A customer can lodge a complaint if he feels that the terms and conditions for loans or credit cards are unfair.
  • Account closure issues: Problems regarding closing an account or placing restrictions placed on an account.
  • Delay in processing banking transactions: When there is an unacceptable delay in processing banking transactions.
  • Online banking or mobile banking issues: Problems associated with online or mobile banking services.
  • Complaint against the complaints handling procedure at the bank: The customer is unhappy about the way their original complaint had been handled.

What is the process for filing a complaint with the Ombudsman Unit?

Filing a complaint with the Ombudsman Unit is simple and straightforward. Simply follow the directions mentioned below:

  1. Bring all documents and records: First and foremost it is important to gather all the records and documents in connection with your claim. This may include account data, previous transactions, deposits, and such other records which may be relevant to the matter.
  2. Filing a Complaint: Customers have the right to file a complaint through the following channels.
  • Online: Fill in the complaint form available on the Central Bank of the UAE website.
  • Fax: Make a complaint by fax.
  • Physical Presence: Personal visit in any branch of the Central Bank in Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah, or Fujairah.
  1. Probe of Complaint: Upon receiving the complaint, the Ombudsman Unit will look into the matter and investigate whether all the information and documents have been submitted in proper manner. The Unit will contact the complainant for any missing documents and provide 10 days to submit them before closing the complaint.
  2. Investigation by Financial Institution: The complaint is thereafter referred to the concerned financial institution for consideration and inspection. If the complaint is found valid, the institution has the responsibility to dispose of the complaint within 30 days.
  3. Resolution: The Central Bank’s Customer Happiness Team ensures that the correspondence and final resolution of the financial institution comply with the regulations and share the outcomes of resolving the issue.

Role of Ombudsman Unit

  1. Address complaints

The primary role of the Ombudsman is to address bank customer complaints in a fair and effective way. Customers can file complaints with the Ombudsman and request for the investigations to receive fair and impartial decisions.

  1. Consumer protection.

The other important function of the Ombudsman Unit is also to ensure that bank customers’ rights are protected in every manner. This ensures that financial institutions are bound by law and operate with the utmost integrity. The Ombudsman unit, being vested with the power of supervision of the bank, could intervene where it is necessary for the protection of its customers.

  1. Transparency and honesty.

The Ombudsman unit brings transparency into the issue and ensures that the banks provide customers with complete and detailed information. This helps to avoid disputes that may arise from any confusion among the customers.

  1. Maintain Accountability.

By making banks accountable for their actions, the Ombudsman Unit promotes accountability, integrity, and responsibility toward customers. It encourages the financial institutions to keep customer satisfaction at the top of their list while maintaining high standards of service.

Seek Legal Help from HHS Lawyers in Dubai for your Ombudsman Complaints

Have you been a customer of an individual bank or an SME in the UAE? You’re free to complain or report to the Ombudsman Unit of the Central Bank any problem or even complaints over your bank. While the Ombudsman Unit may be able to resolve some banking disputes, most cases will need legal expertise.

HHS Lawyers in Dubai UAE understands the financial sector’s complexities to guide you through every possible manner towards the Ombudsman Unit process. If you are facing unfair charges or fees, poor loan or credit card terms, account closures or restrictions, delays in transactions, problems with online/mobile banking, or any other such issues with your bank’s complaint resolution process, we’re with you.

We will go through your case in detail. Gather the documents necessary and prepare a detailed complaint for you. We will guide you on each step of the process and represent you in the court with professionalism and passion. No dispute or complaint concerning banking shall go unnoticed.

Reach out to HHS Dubai Lawyers today so we can discuss your options. Consulting our lawyer in Dubai can assure you about our competence and commitment to justice. The process of resolving your banking issues can begin right from the point you engage our qualified lawyers.

Hazim Darwish

Hazim Darwish, is a Senior Partner of HHS Lawyers in UAE. Practicing law for almost a decade, he has in-depth knowledge on UAE legislation with particular expertise on legal drafting, contract drafting, labor disputes, family law, and regulatory compliance for business organizations. Hazim Darwish also provides counsel on legal rights and obligations in the UAE to clients, including individuals and businesses subject to investigation or prosecution under Criminal Law by major regulators.