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Russian man beats a bank at its own game
A Russian man who decided to write his own small print in a credit card contract has had his changes upheld in court. He’s now suing the country’s leading online bank for more than 24 million rubles ($727,000) in compensation.
Disappointed by the terms of the unsolicited offer for a credit card from Tinkoff Credit Systems in 2008, a 42-year-old Dmitry Agarkov from the city of Voronezh decided to hand write his own credits terms.
The trick was that Agarkov simply scanned the bank’s document and ‘amended’ the small print with his own terms.
He opted for a 0 percent interest rate and no fees, adding that the customer “is not obliged to pay any fees and charges imposed by bank tariffs.” The bank, however, didn’t read ‘the amendments’, as it signed and certified the document, as well as sent the man a credit card. Under the agreement, the bank OK’d to provide unlimited credit, according to Agarkov’s lawyer Dmitry Mikhalevich talking to Kommersant daily.
“The opened credit line was unlimited. He could afford to buy an island somewhere in Malaysia, and the bank would have to pay for it by law,” Mikhalevich added.
Agarkov also changed the URL of the site where the terms and conditions were published and hedged against the bank’s breaking of the agreement. For each unilateral change in the terms provided in the agreement, the bank would be asked to pay the customer (Agarkov) 3 million rubles ($91,000), or a cancelation fee of 6 million rubles ($182,000).
However, after two years of active use, the bank decided to terminate Agarkov’s credit card because of overdue payments. In 2012, the bank sued Agarkov for 45,000 rubles ($1,363) – an amount that included the remaining balance, fees, and late payment charges, which violated the actual agreement. The court decided that the agreement Agarkov crafted was valid, and required him to settle only his balance of 19,000 rubles ($575).
The bankers had to admit the mistake, says Agarkov’s representative Dmitry Mikhalevich.
“They signed the documents without looking. They said what usually their borrowers say in court: ‘We have not read it,’” says Mikhalevich.
Despite the victory, Agarkov decided to sue Tinkoff Credit Systems for fines of 24 million rubles ($727,000) for not honoring the terms of the agreement, and the decision to terminate the contract without paying 6 million rubles ($182,000) fee.
“Our lawyers think, he is going to get not 24 million, but really four years in prison for fraud. Now it’s a matter of principle for @ tcsbank,” founder of the bank Oleg Tinkov tweeted.
“We don’t have small print, everything is clear and transparent. Try to open a card – then we’ll talk. Stealing is a sin – in my opinion, of course. Not all in Russia think so,” Tinkov tweeted.
The next hearing will be held in September.