Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Supreme Court art: risky credit

So he went into PC World and...

You can hold it there. That already makes me feel like Ruth weeping amid the alien corn. But back to Durkin v DSG Retail Ltd and HFC Bank Plc.

...into PC World in 1998 and asked if the laptop had a built-in modem.

'Yes, it does.'

He bought it on the understanding that he could return it if it didn't have a built-in modem, paid a £50 deposit and signed a consumer credit agreement to cover the balance.

The laptop did not have a built-in modem. And the credit agreement had small print. 

The salesperson, having triggered 16 years of costly litigation, vanished from the story. Mr Durkin returned the laptop and felt he should not have to pay for something he no longer owned but his credit rating was trashed.

Today the bench exudes energy, led by a brightly fascinated Lady Hale. Amid discussion of the doctrine of confusio, I meander down memory lane. 

There was the time the London Electricity Board (RIP) broke into my flat, treading dog mess into the floor, and changed the locks because they mistook it for the flat upstairs, leaving me locked out for the night. The time the Nationwide lost the deeds to my flat when I was trying to sell it.

And the time the Royal Bank of Scotland mysteriously changed the payee for my mortgage standing order. Month after month I unknowingly drew closer to eviction. When I got a danger signal from my mortgagee, I rang someone at RBS. 'We were wondering when you'd get in touch,' he sniggered, as if I'd been the subject of a bet.  

None of these is analogous to the credit agreement issue. But I am lamenting those modem moments we all share, which could be avoided if someone gave a toss.

In court today, a tourist couple shove me half off the end of the bench by plonking themselves down in a space meant for one. As I try not to fall off my precarious perch I think of the Nationwide some decades ago, refusing me a mortgage on the stated grounds that I was a single woman, not a couple.

'I am financially entitled to a mortgage,' I snapped.
'But ethically?' he sneered.

Children, that's the way things were. I was not a bad debt, but a morally undeserving one at a time when mortgages and credit agreements were not being thrust at consumers.


Every time I pass a branch of PC World, Pavlovian conditioning evokes a scene from The West Wing in which CJ warns an erring colleague: 'I'm going to shove a motherboard so far up your ass.'

Today hasn't helped.

More pictures if you scroll down.

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