Russian man changes smallprint in credit card agreement, wins legal battle

An interesting story has surfaced from the Russian city of Voronezh, where a man is suing a bank for more than 24 million Russian rubles (about $727,000/£420,000) in compensation over a document that he had altered, unknowingly by the bank who signed and approved it.

Dmitry Agarkov stated that way back in 2008 he received a letter from Tinkoff Credit Systems in the post. It was a credit card application form with an agreement contract enclosed, much like the standard applications people all of the world receive daily from Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover etc. Agarkov filled in the form and returned the signed application, though what he sent back was not exactly the same document the bank had sent him initially.

Agarkov changed some parts for his own benefit. He had altered parts of the small print, opting himself in for a 0% APR and no fees, and added that the customer “is not obliged to pay any fees and charges imposed by bank tariffs.” He also changed the URL of the site where the terms and conditions were published from www.tcsbank.ru to tcsbank.at.ua. Additionally, he added a special clause that would protect him should the bank not honour the contract. For each unilateral change in the terms provided in the agreement, the bank would be asked to pay the customer (Dmitry Agarkov) 3 million rubles (about $91,000), or a cancellation fee of 6 million rubles ($182,000).

Tinkoff failed to notice Agarkov’s tweaks, and duly signed the contract and sent Mr. Argakov a credit card soon after.

“The Bank confirmed its agreement to the client’s terms and sent him a credit card and a copy of the approved application form,” his lawyer Dmitry Mikhalevich told Kommersant. “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.”

However, the bank attempted to close the account due to “overdue payments”. It attempted to sue Mr. Argakov for 45,000 rubles for fees and charges that were not in his altered version of the contract. A Russian judge ruled in Argakov’s favour. Tinkoff had signed the contract and was legally bound to it. Argakov was only ordered to pay an outstanding balance of 19,000 rubles (£371).

“They signed the documents without looking. They said what usually their borrowers say in court: ‘We have not read it’,” said Mikhalevich.

But now Dmitry Argakov has taken matters one step further. He is suing the bank (Tinkoff) for 24m rubles for not honouring the contract and breaking the agreement.

Tinkoff has launched its own legal action, accusing Mr Argakov of fraud.

Oleg Tinkov, founder of the bank, tweeted: “Our lawyers think he is going to get not 24m, but really 4 years in prison for fraud. Now it’s a matter of principle for @tcsbanktwitter.”

The bank has so far said that the case was related to “a nonrecurrent technical issue,” and it is willing to have its day in court. The next hearing will be held in September.

Sources: Minyanville, Telegraph