The UAE has taken a significant step towards enhancing consumer trust and protecting consumer rights with the introduction of the new ombudsman unit, “Sanadak”. This move follows the merger of the UAE Insurance Authority with the Central Bank of the UAE in 2020, forming a unified regulatory body for both insurance and banking sectors. The Central Bank announced initiatives for the insurance sector in November 2022, leading to the establishment of the Ombudsman Unit, as outlined in the “Ombudsman Regulation” issued by the Central Bank in 2023. Starting its operations on 07 March 2024, Sanadak represents a pioneering development as the first legally independent ombudsman unit in both the UAE and the MENA region, dedicated to safeguarding consumer interests in dealings with financial institutions and licensed insurance companies.


Under Sanadak’s umbrella, consumers now have a centralized platform to address grievances related to various financial entities, including banks, exchange houses, insurance companies, brokers, and other licensed institutions. One of Sanadak’s primary objectives is to reduce the reliance of consumers on local courts and judicial authorities. From concerns regarding insurance policy features to payment issues or disputes with financial service providers, UAE consumers can access Sanadak’s services free of charge, ensuring a smoother resolution process.


Submitting complaints to Sanadak has been made accessible through its dedicated website or mobile application. Moreover, individuals with disabilities and the elderly can seek assistance through the Sanadak Contact Centre or visit the office in Abu Dhabi in person, ensuring equitable access to justice for all. In line with the UAE’s Emiratization agenda, Sanadak is staffed entirely by UAE Nationals, emphasizing its commitment to empowering national talent and fostering economic growth through diversification and job creation.


The reference is made to the Central Bank’s Decision No. 1659/2023 on the establishment of an Ombudsman Unit for the UAE (“Regulation”), the key points of which have been summarized below.  The Regulation outlines the creation of an independent Ombudsman Unit with its own legal identity and delineates its powers and duties. The Regulation also sets up the comprehensive regulatory structure for the Ombudsman Unit’s operations and its interaction with licensed financial institutions and insurance companies concerning consumer complaint resolution. The Ombudsman Unit will have financial and administrative autonomy as outlined in this Regulation and is accountable to the Central Bank.


Applicability of the Regulation: The Regulation is applicable to Natural Persons, Sole Proprietors or Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) who obtain or may prospectively obtain services and/or products from an Insurance Company or from a Licensed Financial Institution, with or without charge, to satisfy his/her personal need or others’ needs (“Consumer”).


Dispute resolution mechanism: Section 3 of the Regulation outlines the governance and organizational structure of the Ombudsman Unit. Previously, complaints related to insurance matters were directed to the UAE Insurance Authority, which is now the Insurance Dispute Resolution Unit, part of the Central Bank of the UAE (“CBUAE). Under the existing procedure and moving forward, Consumers will need first to submit their complaints to the relevant entity, such as the insurance company, Licensed Financial Institution (“LFI”) or broker, and await their response within 30 complete business days. If the response is deemed unsatisfactory by the complainant, they can escalate the issue to the Ombudsman Unit, which will assess and ultimately resolve the complaint.


The Appeal Mechanism: Should any party involved disagree with the determination, they have the right to appeal to the relevant committee within 30 business days from the date of the Ombudsman Unit’s determination. Failure to do so within the stipulated time renders the determination final and enforceable. The appeal of the Ombudsman Unit’s decision regarding insurance disputes will be handled by the Insurance Dispute Resolution Unit, however for appeals concerning decisions related to LFIs, a similar function will be fulfilled by the Appeals Committee established under the Regulation.


Acceptance and Rejection Criteria: The Ombudsman Unit has the authority to accept or reject complaints based on specific criteria.


  • Grounds for Acceptance: Complaints may be accepted if they pertain to the conduct of LFIs or Insurance Companies, including issues related to the provided services and products, discrimination, financial loss due to deceptive practices, among others.
  • Grounds for Rejection: Complaints may be rejected, among other reasons, if they are already subject to legal proceedings, not properly communicated to the concerned institution, or fall outside specified time limits.


Additionally, the Ombudsman Unit may refuse to accept or may discontinue a review of a complaint if they are frivolous, lack sufficient evidence, or have been previously addressed unless new material evidence is presented. The decision of the Ombudsman Unit will be final with respect to the Ombudsman Unit’s jurisdiction and acceptance of Complaints.


Complaint Review Process: Upon receiving a complaint related to LFI or Insurance Company, the Ombudsman Unit conducts a thorough review. This includes assessing reports, submissions from involved parties, and any gathered evidence. The Unit then issues a determination in writing, either upholding, partially upholding, or rejecting the complaint.


Compliance Obligations for LFIs and Insurance Companies: LFIs and Insurance Companies are mandated to comply with the Regulations, fully cooperate with the Ombudsman Unit and provide necessary assistance during complaint reviews. They are obligated to provide accurate and complete information requested by the Ombudsman Unit, Appeals Committee, or Insurance Dispute Resolution Committee without obstructing or delaying the resolution process, providing false information, or attempting to recover costs from complainants. Failure to cooperate with the review process may lead the Ombudsman Unit to escalate the matter to the Central Bank for enforcement action.


Consumer Awareness and Representation: LFIs and Insurance Companies are required to inform consumers of their right to approach the Ombudsman Unit with complaints. They must provide detailed contact information for the Ombudsman Unit and may appoint representatives responsible for liaising with the Unit on complaint matters.


Time bar: Section 4.4 sets out time bars for filing complaints, ensuring swift and effective resolution of consumer grievances within the financial and insurance sectors. Complaints must be lodged with the Ombudsman Unit within three years of the date of the conduct giving rise to the complaint or within two years from the date the complainant became aware of the issue.


Service Standards and Accountability: A party to a Complaint who is dissatisfied with the Standard of Service provided by the Ombudsman Unit when dealing with a complaint may lodge a service complaint against the Ombudsman Unit. The Ombudsman Unit shall acknowledge receipt of such complaint within 3 business days and provide a response to the party within 14 business days. The Ombudsman Unit shall provide a report to the Central Bank, on an annual basis, of all service complaints received.

Financial Support and Governance: LFIs and Insurance Companies are required to pay an annual levy and case fee to the Ombudsman Unit. The Board of the Ombudsman Unit determines and revises these fees, ensuring they remain sufficient to cover operational expenses while considering income and expenditure.



The regulatory framework sets clear guidelines for the resolution of complaints involving LFIs and Insurance Companies, promoting accountability, transparency, and consumer protection within the financial and insurance sectors. Compliance with these regulations is essential to uphold the integrity of the complaint resolution process and maintain trust between financial service providers and consumers.


Should you require more in-depth information or seek insights into how these changes may impact on your insurance operations, feel free to reach out to us. We are here to offer the necessary support and expertise you may need.

Anna Mkrtchyan

Ravi P. Jawani

Chakrapani Bodapati

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