A Russian man named Dmitry Agarkov from the city of Voronezh (it’s several hundred miles south of Moscow, obviously) pulled a fast one on Tinkoff Credit Systems, one of the nation’s leading financial institutions.
After receiving an unsolicited credit card offer from the company back in 2008, Agarkov took it upon himself to make a few changes to the contract by scanning the document into his computer and modifying the small print.
He basically created a credit card with the best terms imaginable, including 0% APR for life, no credit card limit, and no fees or charges whatsoever.
He even added terms that would result in penalties if Tinkoff made any changes to the contract, including 3 million rubles ($91,000) for each unilateral change, or a 6-million ruble ($182,000) cancellation fee.
Talk about a nice little 180…
Tinkoff Didn’t Read the Fine Print
Somehow, Tinkoff overlooked the amendments and granted Agarkov approval for the card, though ostensibly the original terms defined by the company.
Agarkov apparently actively used the credit card for a couple of years before falling behind on payments. In 2012, Tinkoff sued him for the unpaid charges, tacking on late fees as credit card issuers typically do.
However, a Russian court later ruled that his amended contract was valid, meaning he didn’t have to pay back any of the fees or surcharges, only the $575 outstanding balance on the card.
But Agarkov took it a step further, countersuing Tinkoff for their apparent breach of contract, which as noted, was deemed valid.
His lawyer has asked for 24 million rubles ($727,000) for Tinkoff’s failure to honor the terms of the agreement, and for its decision to terminate the credit card contract without paying the 6-million ruble ($182,000) cancellation fee.
The founder of Tinkoff, Oleg Tinkov, likened what Agarkov pulled off to bank fraud, though the customer’s lawyer sees it another way.
He aptly pointed out that it’s usually customers who say, “We did not read the fine print,” and now it’s the bank that is guilty of this age-old mistake.
Customers typically aren’t off the hook for failing to do their due diligence, so perhaps Tinkoff shouldn’t be either.
Of course, one might argue that Agarkov used deceiving methods to accomplish his ultimate bank revenge, but a court will need to decide that one. My guess is that the dispute will end in some sort of settlement, and credit card issuers will be a lot more careful reading their own paperwork going forward.