The Devil Is in the Fine Print
One man took a lesson the banks have been forcing on customers and changed the rules.
Always read the fine print. It's common sense advice from people who have been burned by not adhering to the advice they now espouse. One man, Dmitry Agarkov, decided he was sick of the restrictive limits the bank put on their customers and wanted to turn the tables on them. After reviewing his agreement, he added some terms in the fine print. This led to a face off with the bank.
Nearly everyone has received a letter saying they have been pre-approved for a credit card, and one with a great interest rate to boot. Agarkov got one from a newer bank, Tinkoff Credit System, but instead of tossing it with the rest of his junk mail, he took a gander at it. The initial offer said the interest rate would be 12.9 percent and a decent credit limit. It sounded too good to be true.
Because it was. Agarkov decided to read the fine print to see what the "real" contract was. It was there that he learned the interest rate would actually be 45 percent. Angry, he decided to have a little fun with the bank, and turn the tables on them.
To that end, he scanned the contract onto his computer and set about changing the terms of the agreement. Gone were the inflated interest rate and credit limit. In place of those were guidelines for the bank, including fees for when they tried to charge one of their 'normal' fees (more than $90,000 for each instance) and a cancellation fee of $180,000. Agarkov didn't expect the contract to be approved.
Imagine his surprise when his new credit card and agreement arrived. Instead of going wild with the card, Agarkov kept his purchases reasonable. The relationship between the bank and their customer was harmonious for a few years, neither had a reason to rock the boat.
Until Agarkov missed a minimum payment on the card. It was then that Tinkoff decided to sue him for $1,300 in unpaid fees and the unpaid balance on the card. They must have thought the case would be a slam dunk, but they would be confronted with an unpleasant truth, their own employees had not read the fine print on the agreement they signed off on.
When presented with the agreement in court, they were shocked to find the fine print had been changed. In fact, they argued to the Judge that the agreement wasn't valid because they signed off without reading it. Sound familiar? The Judge disagreed with them and said with their vast resources, they should have read the terms. It was right there in black and white. He ruled in Agarkov's favor. All he had to pay was the unpaid debt of $575. But he wasn't done with the bank and the court system yet.
Since the terms were in black and white, spelled out for the bank, Agarkov decided they owed him some big money for canceling his card. He sued them for breach of contract and asked for the $180,000 plus the fines for each of the charges they tried to charge him, as spelled out in the fine print of the contract. In total, he was suing for $727,000.
Despite a Judge ruling that the contract was valid, Tinkoff founder Oleg Tinkov tweeted, “Our lawyers think, he is going to get not 24 million, but really four years in prison for fraud. Now it is a matter of principle for @tcsbank.” The legal battle escalated between the two parties, as mudslinging became the name of the game. At some point, the two parties came together and talked about what solution would be beneficial for everyone involved.
The lawsuit was settled out of court and most of the terms of the agreement have been sealed. One component known to have come out of this was that Agarkov was given a special debit card that gives him 30 percent back on purchases he makes.
And this should be a lesson to everyone, make sure to read the fine print before signing an agreement. Not everyone is as lucky as Agarkov was.