Refunds for some, but many UAE Exchange customers are still waiting for their turn. Image used for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: The UAE Exchange Centre has started issuing refunds to some customers whose transactions had been delayed for well over two months because of the crisis the company is going through. But there are still many who are yet to get any confirmation from the company on the status of their transaction, and if and when they are likely to get their refunds.

Sources say UAE Exchange Centre, currently under the direct supervision of UAE Central Bank, has been refunding some of the smaller transactions it had taken on in February/early March.

It was on March 18 that Finablr, the parent company of UAE Exchange, confirmed that Central Bank had placed the currency house under its supervision and going through the books to “verify its compliance with applicable laws and regulations”. Simultaneously, UAE Exchange – the biggest player in the local remittances category - stopped taking all transactions.

Sources say that other affected customers should be receiving their own refunds, but added that no clear deadline has been set. ‘Gulf News’ tried to get in touch with Bhairav Trivedi, who was confirmed as CEO on April 1 in place of Promoth Manghat, who had resigned on March 16.

But no official updates are available from Finablr on the status of refunds.

For many, there’s no respite as yet

Meanwhile, some customers who were promised refunds by UAE Exchange Centre are yet to see even a single dirham being credited back to their accounts.

Here’s what one unfortunate customer, Y.B., has to say: “I transferred Dh140,000 early March and the refund date keeps getting postponed. UAE Exchange actually cancelled the transaction and said it had started on the refund process.

“I had a written promise from them that the refund would happen by March 20. I have called them repeatedly and have stayed on the phone for one hour and emailed customer support. But there’s been no answer. There’s always someone or the other telling me to "wait until next week".

“When will I ever get my money?”

He’s not alone.

“I sent Dh25,018.50 via online transition using UAE Exchange app to my wife’s account in Canada on March 10 - but it never got processed,” said T.M.. “I waited a few weeks but when the money was not received and the app keeps showing “processing”.

“I called UAE Exchange and requested a cancellation - they said OK. I need to get a refund ASAP. Some people are visiting UAE Exchange branches and waiting hours to get their money back.”

What next for UAE Exchange?

After the Eid break, the market expects some updates on Finablr and UAE Exchange Centre. With UAE Exchange Centre not taking in any transaction orders, it has proved a bonanza for other currency houses.

“But the biggest beneficiary of UAE Exchange’s situation has been local banks, who are now becoming more active in the remittance space,” said a source at a currency house. “Faith of customers was shaken because of the delays that happened at UAE Exchange – no one will want to see delays of two months and more. And get no answers when customers want to know the status of their funds.”

Employees are faring no better

According to an employee at UAE Exchange, the April salaries were yet to be paid until May 12. “No one from the management thought it was important to inform employees about such a delay until May 3,” he said. “Now put yourself in the place of employees who are living from paycheck to paycheck

“There are employees who have been less than three months with the company and are facing a terrible situation. They have contacted the HR but there is no reply.

“How can employees survive? Some are being made to sit at home and work for sister companies in Oman and Kuwait. While [sister company] NMC Health may be the focal point of controversy, there’s a lot happening over at UAE Exchange too.

“Most employees fear that they would lose their jobs at UAE Exchange. While business has ceased over the last two months, isn’t it funny that a company - whose presence in the UAE remittance industry spans decades - has no contingency plan in place when faced with such a situation.”

Finablr’s newly appointed CEO, Bhairav Trivedi, will need to come up with some answers.

Where has all this money gone? Is it held somewhere, or has it been misused and lost? I believe the affected parties have a right to know - particularly in these hard times.

- A customer at UAE Exchange Centre who is awaiting clarity on a Dh30,000 transfer in February