This past week was significant for both UAE banks and their customers. Amid some fanfare, Direct Debit was introduced to the country by the UAE Central Bank on the 5th October. For those of you out there who don’t know Direct Debit or have never used the service, simply put Direct Debit is a service that automatically deducts from your amount the exact amount required (or specified) to settle a bill or any form of payment which is authorized by the account owner, the payee.
Direct Debit makes bill payment easy and simple; it offers consumers the peace of mind of knowing that bills will be paid automatically as soon as they’re due. There’s no need to write cheques, particularly those that are post-dated. Direct Debit is both secure and flexible, often allowing consumers to schedule payments at a time of their choosing and without the possibility of being defrauded.
While consumers in Europe, the United States, Asia and South Africa have enjoyed using and making use of Direct Debit for several years now, the situation here has been different. Despite several attempts to roll out services similar to Direct Debit, there’s been no universal system in place to facilitate and automate utility payments or other types of regular billing.
Direct Debit should be welcomed by all consumers. There’ll be no more need to waste time going into a branch or paying through online banking. Consumers will be hit with fewer late payment charges, and Direct Debit will help put a nail in the coffin of post-dated cheques. Direct Debit will also help utility providers, financial establishments and others who provide regular services to reduce the number of late payments and bill defaulters.
With so much to gain, the one puzzle is why banks have been so quiet about the introduction of Direct Debit. Despite the media attention given to its introduction, my own bank (the world’s local bank) hasn’t communicated a single word about Direct Debit and how I can start using the service. Doubtless, other banks have yet to reach out to their customers as well.
What I’m left wondering is having waited for so long for Direct Debit to be introduced into the country, how much longer will consumers have to idle by before the banks reach out, explain the benefits of the service, and start to introduce Direct Debit services that we can start using and enjoying. I for one am eager to use Direct Debit here. Let’s hope my bank – and the others in the country – leverage off that enthusiasm to introduce a service that will improve our banking experience sooner rather than later.
Alex Malouf has been a journalist, writer and columnist in the Gulf for over a decade. He speaks both Arabic and English and has lived in Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He blogs at alexofarabia.com.