'Mixed feelings' on credit victory
An oil worker placed on a credit blacklist after a row over payments for a laptop computer said today that he had "mixed feelings" despite winning a court fight.
Richard Durkin, who is in his 40s and comes from Aberdeen, was awarded £ 8,000 damages after Supreme Court justices ruled that a bank had breached a "duty of care".
Mr Durkin said he was glad that his "consumer victory" would help the "greater good". But he said he had run up bills of about £250,000 on litigation which started more than a decade ago and was in "a lot of debt".
Mr Durkin bought the laptop at a PC World store in Aberdeen in 1998 and signed a credit agreement with lender HFC Bank for about £1,500, Supreme Court justices heard.
He returned the computer the next day because it did not have an internal modem, and asked for the credit agreement to be cancelled.
HFC said he had to keep making payments and, after he refused, the bank issued a default notice.
It told credit reference agencies that he had defaulted and his name remained on a credit register for several years, justices heard.
Mr Durkin took legal action, arguing that he had "validly rescinded" the credit agreement.
The Supreme Court ruled his favour today, saying he was entitled to rescind the credit agreement and had done so "validly".
Five justices delivered their decision at a hearing in London.
They said HFC had breached a "duty of care" and said Mr Durkin was entitled to £8,000 damages.
Mr Durkin had taken his fight to the Supreme Court - the highest in the UK - after battles in Scottish courts.
"I've got mixed feelings, I suppose," said Mr Durkin, an offshore surveyor, after the ruling. "I'm glad that I've helped the greater good with a consumer victory."
But he added: "I've got myself into a lot of debt, basically."
And he went on: "There's a lot expenses still to be distributed; hopefully I'll get something back, I've put about £250,000 into it."
Mr Durkin's solicitor, Ross Slater, said the Supreme Court decision had major implications for people with debts.
He said the decision clarified the link between a credit agreement and a contract of sale.
And he said it meant that lenders would have to make inquiries about the validity of debts before "blackening" people's "credit names".
"From the point of view of the debtor, they are going to be able to rely on the fact that the bank cannot just simply say 'We are going to report you to whoever' and blacken their name," said Mr Slater, an associate at Glasgow-based law firm Patrick Campbell & Company.
"It's a huge decision. There are potentially millions of agreements that could have fallen into this problem."
Mr Durkin had initially claimed £250,000 damages.
He said HFC's behaviour meant that he was unable to put down a deposit on house in Spain.
A judge initially awarded him around £100,00 for loss arising from his inability to buy the property, b ut an appeal court overturned that decision.
And Mr Durkin today failed to persuade the Supreme Court to reinstate the property-loss damages award.