back to article Returning a laptop to PC World ruined this bloke's credit score. Today the Supreme Court ended his 15-year nightmare

A dad whose credit rating was "annihilated" over a laptop he bought in 1998 has today won an epic legal fight to clear his name. Richard Durkin's 15-year nightmare began when he walked into a PC World store in Aberdeen, Scotland, to buy a £1,449 notebook. He specifically asked for a computer with a modem. A sales assistant …

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  1. John Bailey

    Mistake 1

    He entered PC World

    1. Dcope
      Trollface

      Entering is one thing , its leaving with something outside of your disposable income that's the worry.

      1. Tom 13
        Pint

        @Dcope

        I wouldn't even say it was outside his disposable income. My guess is if he had wanted it, paying for it either under the credit terms or possibly all in cash would have been no trouble at all. But whereas the merchandise was not as advertised and therefore not fit for purpose, he returned it.

        Virtual beer to toast to a rare man of principle, courage, and fortitude. Fifteen years is a long time to be fighting a nest of vipers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mistake 2

      He spoke to a member of staff

      Mistake 3

      He believed him

      Mistake 4

      He actually bought something

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Second mistake: taking out a loan.

      More and more I am convinced that taking out loans for anything other than a house (which is bad enough) is asking for trouble.

      1. Goldmember

        "More and more I am convinced that taking out loans for anything other than a house (which is bad enough) is asking for trouble."

        Well said, sir.

        A house, most people don't have a choice but to take a loan out for. A car I can kind of understand, but considering the depreciation of mine the last time I did it and the resulting negative equity, I certainly won't be doing it again. But a laptop on credit? I wouldn't even consider that, even if we were still in a time where lower spec models cost £1500.

        This is how countries get into financial trouble. You have companies such as Wonga advertising on TV, encouraging people to take out short loans at 1600% APR for trivial things like a new bed or paint for the living room.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I go to PC world fairly often

          Not to buy anything mind you, normally for a laugh on my way back from shopping. The amount of BS I've heard in there before. I remember once I ended up advising customers where to go. The conversation went something like this.

          Woman was looking for a laptop for her son who was off to uni for a graphics related course, she wasn't sure what to get, but she wanted it to be a surprise, she had a budget etc but knew nothing about computers. Apparently neither did the guy advising her.

          "What's the difference between the i3, i5 and i7 processors?"

          "Well it's all down to the number of cores in them, the i3 had 3 cores, the i5 has 5 cores, and the i7 has 7 cores."

          It was at that point I interrupted with *Cough*BOLLUCK*Cough* I continued this for most of the advice he gave incorrectly until he gave up and walked off to get his manager.

          In the minutes he was hunting for his manager I explained it all correctly to her, pointed out a few laptops which matched what she was looking for, then told her a few websites where she could get a much better laptop for an even lower price than PC world were asking.

          I've also been kicked out of a different one of their stores while hovering around the helpdesk. Somebody came in with a broken laptop, wouldn't start up unless it was plugged in. The guy said it was going to be £50 just to look at it, and then another £X to fix it if they found the problem. I asked if I could have a quick look, took the battery out, gave it a blow (cartridge style) and popped it back in and it worked. A manager asked me to leave the premises shortly after :P

          I know it's sad, but it's an endless source of fun for me. And on occasion (rarely) you can find a good deal. I've gotten a £700 camera for £300 in a sale, (RRP was £500 at the time) chea pheadphones. So it's worth a look every now and then.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I go to PC world fairly often

            He would have been better drawing an analogy with the BMW 3, 5 and 7 series :)

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I go to PC world fairly often

            When I was at University, PC World staff-bating was a favourite sport of Computer Science students... it basically involved testing the knowledge of their sales staff with detailed technical questions about the specifications and inner workings of assorted PC components.

            Participants were awarded points based on a variety of criteria including how quickly their target ran off for help, how many staff they ultimately managed to get caught up in the discussion and whether they could get the staff arguing against each other about the relative merits of a product.

            The most amusing one was when a friend of mine actually managed to cause a physical altercation between two PC World employees over the question of Nvidia vs ATI graphics cards...

        2. g e

          1600% ?!?!?! Are Wonga having a Spring sale or something?

          From Googling 'Wonga dot com apr'

          "Our flexible, short-term service comes with a representative APR of 5853%"

        3. David Barrett Silver badge

          "But a laptop on credit?"

          Yes, a laptop on credit, consider you have two options take £500-1000 out of your account in one go or take £41-90 a month out.

          Personally Id notice a £1000 dip in my account, but £80 a month over a year - thats not going to make a dent.

          The problem isn't taking out a loan, there are may reasons for taking a loan rather than buying outright, myself I bought a new laptop on credit because I needed one for some freelance work that I was schedued to start, my old one had died and it happened right after moving house and before xmas so funds were at an all time low!

          The problem is taking out a loan without having means to repay it.

          Regardless, the issue here wasn't that he had a loan, it was that they refused to cancel the credit agreement when he returned the item.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Alternatively you could plan ahead, save the £80 a month for a year and then buy the laptop without a loan.

            It's like the mobile phone on contract or up front. You buy it up front and it's yours. You buy it on contract, you belong to them for 18 months. Break the phone? Don't care, pay up. Lose the phone? Don't care, pay up.

            There are good debts and bad debts. A loan to buy a home to live in is a good debt, property in the UK over a decent period always increases in value, you fix your repayments at the value of the property when you purchase, and the money you use to repay the loan would otherwise be used to fund an alternate place to live.

            A loan to buy a laptop is a bad debt. A laptop depreciates in value the moment you buy it, in 12 months it is worth almost nothing. If you can afford to pay a loan to buy a laptop, you can afford to save up and buy it outright.

            However, as you said, there are times when you need to take on a bad debt, for the exact kind of reasons you elaborated on.

            One of the big problems I have with wonga is that the target users of wonga already have credit available, and have used it all already, in which case taking a wonga loan is daft, or that the person is disenfranchised from credit, in which case it is just cruel. I did some daft things when I was 18 and awash with credit, it took me 15 years before I could get a credit card, overdraft or mortgage, despite having a good well paying career with a long service record, large disposable income and no outstanding debts.

            1. Squander Two

              Value vs price.

              > A loan to buy a laptop is a bad debt. A laptop depreciates in value the moment you buy it, in 12 months it is worth almost nothing.

              This assumes that the laptop's only value is in its resale price. But that's not true: the value of my laptop lies in its ability to do stuff.

              I used to need my own laptop for work, if I wanted to work from home (which I did). I was able to use an ancient laptop that would barely have fetched a tenner on Ebay, because all it needed to do was connect to a virtual PC on my work's servers, where all the actual CPU grunt work took place. That laptop was certainly not worthless: it allowed me to spend two years at home with my young daughter and saved me a fortune in petrol and car maintenance and insurance. Eventually, it broke down, so I immediately replaced it. As it happens, I had the cash at the time, but, had a loan been required, that would have been interest well spent.

            2. David Barrett Silver badge

              "Alternatively you could plan ahead, save the £80 a month for a year and then buy the laptop without a loan."

              Yes, or you could have it now and pay out the £80 a month in loan payments... either way you are still left with £80 less a month, at least with the loan you have the laptop first, as long as you can pay for it there is nothing wrong with taking the loan.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "property in the UK over a decent period always increases in value"

              *Cough Norfolk coast*

              *Cough flood planes that flooded a few months ago and are still flooded now*

              Generally yes, but *ALWAYS* is a bit wide of the mark in this case.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                If you buy property on a flood plain and skim over the bit in the solicitors report that says you are buying on a flood plain which may affect future property prices, more fool you.

                Besides which, go back over a long enough period, I guarantee that the properties have increased in value. Unless it is worth less now than it was in 1989, taking out a 25 year mortgage in 1989 to purchase it would have been a good investment.

                The only problems you ever have with property is if either you cannot afford the repayments or need to move before you have realised the inevitable increase in value.

        4. jonathanb Silver badge

          £1500 in 1998 money is about £2300 in today's money. Around about 1 month's take home pay for a reasonably well paid person, which as an offshore worker, he would be. I'm sure on his income, the repayments on the loan would be extremely manageable, so he wasn't over-stretching himself.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I did it for a Macbook Pro and the loan is interest free, which is the only time I'll ever take out a loan now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Macbook pah

          I have no interest in a Macbook too......that's what you meant, right?

        2. Mag07

          If a loan is interest free, it generally means, you can get the same thing much cheaper elsewhere. There is no such thing as interest free - rather, invisible interest ;)

        3. Tom 13

          Re: loan is interest free

          No it isn't. They lie when they tell you that. The cost of the loan is moved to the price of the laptop. That's how all "interest free" deals are priced before the merchandise hits the floor.

      3. Squander Two

        Always take an interest-free loan when offered. It's effectively a discount.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not necessarily

          "Always take an interest-free loan when offered. It's effectively a discount".

          Aren't you making an assumption there? Indeed, several assumptions. As far as I can make out, it's only a discount if you can get some interest on the money you delay paying. Today, however, interest is practically unavailable. If available, it's usually enough to keep the average person in coffee and Danish for a couple of days.

          On the other hand, people being what they are - and not the perfectly logical Spock-like imaginary constructs of economic theory - if you don't pay that £1000 or whatever today, you will probably have spent at least some of it on other things by the time you are due to pay it in six months, or a year, or whatever.

          The safest rule, as previous comments imply, is always to pay cash on the nail. "Neither a borrower or a lender be". Old Will was half right, at least. Being a lender is the best way to riches beyond the dreams of avarice nowadays, especially since it was established that if you lose any money through carelessness the government will pay you back out of taxes. But being a borrower (if you're an ordinary person) is an express route to the modern equivalent of slavery.

          1. Squander Two

            Re: Not necessarily @Tom Welsh

            > Aren't you making an assumption there?

            Yes, that money decreases in value over time. Which is a correct assumption.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: Not necessarily @Tom Welsh

              And factored into the interest rate of the loan. And they lie when they say "interest free". That just means they've calculated the cost of the loan, including the interest and profit on the loan and moved it to the retail price of the good.

              And while it is true almost no banks are paying interest on deposit accounts these days, nobody's offering loans at anywhere near those rates.

              1. Squander Two

                Re: Not necessarily @Tom Welsh

                > And they lie when they say "interest free". That just means they've calculated the cost of the loan, including the interest and profit on the loan and moved it to the retail price of the good.

                This is a very simplistic and inaccurate view of pricing. There are lots of ways to make money out of interest-free loans, of which that is just one. The more common direct one is to insist that people set up a direct debit at the time of taking out the loan and rely on their not paying off the full amount at the end of the interest-free period. The loan is also a useful method of price segmentation, so doesn't need to make any money directly as it allows for greater sales and thereby makes money indirectly.

                The last laptop I bought, I got on an interest-free loan. It was the same price with or without credit and a better price from the place I bought it than anywhere else -- which disproves your idea.

                And I can't believe some eejit downvoted me for saying that money decreases in value over time. Honestly, some people.

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Not just PC World. I don't remember the details but there was a similar case with a BMW

      Car was a lemon and the buyer took it back to the dealer who claimed they didn't sell the car to him, BMW Finance ltd (in the Cayman islands or wherever) sold the car - and the dealer had nothing to do with it.

      So a long and expensive legal argument between the BMW dealer, BMW UK who imported it, BMW Germany who built it, BMW finance etc etc about whose car it was.

      1. GT66

        And that is exactly why they set up the businesses this way. The intent is solely to confuse and confound a consumer making a claim. Any company playing this strategy is not worthy of the customer's business.

    5. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      You get an upvote, though I disagree. I got a laptop from PC world because I knew exactly what I wanted, and they were the only ones with it in stock at a reasonable price (not cheapest, but all in all after a few "free" extras, worked out about an average price).

      Difference was, I would not budge an inch on anything, and knew the exact spec of the model, model number and specific parts it had weeks before I got it. :P

  2. ecofeco Silver badge

    15 years

    Ah the swift hand of justice.

    Not.

    Rule of thumb: judgement against you and for big company - days

    - judgement FOR you against big company - a decade or more

    That said, good for him!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 15 years

      To be fair - he did have judgement for him - and swiftly - his greed buggered it up...I have little sympathy

      1. Goldmember

        Re: 15 years

        "he did have judgement for him - and swiftly - his greed buggered it up."

        See this part:

        "Although a sheriff in Aberdeen ruled in Durkin's favour in March 2008"

        That's TEN YEARS of hassle and legal fees later. I would hardly call that swift. He may have been greedy and held out for more for all the hassle, he may have been advised by his lawyers to hold out for more. Or maybe the initial £116k settlement wasn't enough to cover the legal fees. There's no detail on the specifics here, but the fact he had to go through this at all when he had every right to return the mis-sold laptop gets my sympathy.

    2. Squander Two

      Re: 15 years

      How the hell did it take fifteen years to settle a principle that is already so clearly set out in law? If a seller misrepresents a product, that is misselling, which is illegal, and they have to accept the product back and provide a full refund. The Consumer Credit Act says you've got 6 days to pull out of any credit agreement. And your contract as a buyer is always with the store who sell you the product.

      I'm trying to think of a way to drag those three sentences out over fifteen years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 15 years

        "How the hell did it take fifteen years to settle a principle that is already so clearly set out in law?"

        You're not confusing law with justice or fairness, are you? The answer is perfectly obvious: big corporations can afford more and better lawyers.

        "A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer".

        - Robert Frost

      2. Miek
        Linux

        Re: 15 years

        "If a seller misrepresents a product, that is misselling, which is illegal, and they have to accept the product back and provide a full refund." -- They took the product back and refunded him his deposit, but, the customer did not cancel the payment plan he had entered into with HFC Bank. The bank ultimately is at fault for trying to uphold a contract for goods that were returned.

        1. Squander Two

          Re: 15 years @ Miek

          > They took the product back and refunded him his deposit

          Eventually. They initially refused.

          > but, the customer did not cancel the payment plan he had entered into with HFC Bank. The bank ultimately is at fault for trying to uphold a contract for goods that were returned.

          Here's how it works. HFC pay PC World immediately for the laptop. HFC then claim that money back from the customer, plus interest. So, at the time Mr Durkin returned the laptop, PC World had been paid in full. What happened to that money? Either PC World kept the full payment (minus deposit) for goods that they had agreed to issue a refund for, which would be fraudulent, or PC World issued a full refund for the returned goods -- the deposit to Mr Durkin and the balance to HFC -- and HFC decided to pursue payment of a loan that had already been paid in full. I don't know which, but I seriously doubt it's the latter. In which case, HFC should sue PC World.

  3. ThomH Silver badge

    Nightmare? Dad's fight?

    What did boffins have to say about it all? Was it all actually the fault of asylum seekers? Does it tell us anything about Princess Diana?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nightmare? Dad's fight?

      No - but the fact he couldn't afford a house as a result would have had a slight effect on house prices

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    So basically the credit company winged and got away for it for 15 years.

    Bas***ds.

    Justice long delayed.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. djstardust Silver badge

    Not a great store to be honest

    Around that time the staff in the Aberdeen store were particularly aggressive and would tell you anything to get a sale, not to mention the 1/2 hour lecture on the benefits of warranty cover.

    I bought a £2500 Sony Vaio laptop from them on a similar credit agreement but thankfully I never had to return it .....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

    From the BBC:

    "The decision was overturned later by judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after Mr Durkin himself appealed against the size of the damages".

    So basically he was awarded £166,000, but wanted more and it back fired. So the long battle could of ended 6 years ago.

    1. Anonymous Bullard

      Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

      Pigs get fatter, hogs get slaughtered.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. vagabondo

      Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

      Not just a bit missing, but a bit of a misrepresentation.

      The background to this can be read in the Court of Session report, which is a bit turgid, but quite readable.

      http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2010CSIH49.html

      [Edit:] the Supreme Court PDF linked to in the article reproduces much of the information in the above Court of Session opinion.

      Basically: In December 1998 Richard Durkin tried to buy a laptop from PC World in Aberdeen. The salesman (because o DSG's bizarre rules) was not able to open the box to check the specification, and suggested that once purchased it could be returned if incorrect. Unfortunately, instead of immediately unpacking it in the store, the buyer took it home, discovered that it did not match the item requested, and returned it the following day. After a dickhead PC World "manager" initially refusing to accept the returned item, they eventually accepted the matter as a non-sale and returned his deposit. HFC, the hire-purchase provi ders had claimed that he should still pay them for the returned item, but as their agent (PCWorld) had voided the

      sale the matter seemed settled. However when he later tried to obtain a bank loan, and a mortgage, these were blocked due to a bad credit reference from HFC. He did all the right things, appealing to PC World, HFC, Equifax, and Experian, but was unable to get the bad mark removed.

      He sued HFC etc. in Aberdeen Sheriff Court and won in 2006. He claimed actual losses of £250,000, but was awarded a total of £116, 674.

      However Mr Durkin disagreed with the method used to calculate the damages, and appealed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 2010. HFC took this opportunity to counter-appeal, trying to argue that his hire-purchase contract with them was separate from the rescinded sale contract with PC World, and that the Sheriff had been wrong in law. Alas Mr Durkin's side made a few mistakes when responding to HFC's counter-claim, e.g. omitting evidential documents from the appendices. As a result of that legal cock-up HFC prevailed, Mr Durkin was liable for the escalating costs, and lost his £116, 674 award from the Sheriff Court.

      The Court of Session findings have now been appealed in the Supreme Court in London. The original Sheriff's opinion that the loan agreement was dependent on the sale, and should have been rescinded along with the sale contract,

      has now become a precedent with standing throughout the UK. For legal-technical reasons Mr Durkin's damages have been set at £8000. Some lawyers have no doubt stuffed their pockets with considerably more.

      1. John Tserkezis

        Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

        "Unfortunately, instead of immediately unpacking it in the store..."

        If you've ever tried this in Real Life, you'll find the most common response is "get nicked".

        If you've ever tried to buy an open box, you'll need to demand a discount, because open boxes always, always, always have something missing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

          > If you've ever tried this in Real Life, you'll find the most common response is "get nicked".

          He didn't mean mean open -> check -> buy, he meant buy -> open -> check -> refund, all within the store. Had he done that the credit agreement would never have been submitted, it would have simply been torn up.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

            "He didn't mean mean open -> check -> buy, he meant buy -> open -> check -> refund, all within the store. Had he done that the credit agreement would never have been submitted, it would have simply been torn up".

            Ah, I see. So why the hell didn't the salesman suggest that at the time? He was in a position to know what the store's rules were, and the customer wasn't.

          2. Tom 13

            Re: all within the store.

            If that's what the clerk meant, then he should have walked him through that exact process.

        2. zb

          Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

          Here in Brazil it is standard practice when buying anything electrical to test it in the store. The salesman takes you to the cashier and you pay. He then takes you to the tester who opens the box, checks all the contents, plugs in the device and allows you to have a little play to make sure that it all works. You then have a 3 working day guarantee :((

          I have never bought a Windows computer but guess there must be a different procedure when the licence agreement comes up.

        3. Manwe

          Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

          "If you've ever tried to buy an open box, you'll need to demand a discount, because open boxes always, always, always have something missing."

          I work in in-store customer services for DSG and I would have to say that taking that attitude is one of the reasons companies like DSG have to refuse to refund opened items and have a very hard time selling them. I know from experience that consumers are just not interested in buying an opened item because they assume there is something wrong with it. I have had to explain many times that this is not necessarily so. The customer may be a buying a laptop where the customer has been given the wrong colour for example, opened it, taken one look and brought it back untouched. No fault, no missing bits, but the next customer offered the item will demand discount and be much more likely to not buy it at all. I once had a colleague in another store try to disuade me from buying a router than had been opened in favour of a sealed one because of this perception - I pointed out that I knew what it likely meant and took the opened one anyway, it is still working perfectly, if it hadn't I would have had 28 days to get a refund or exchange or the facility to make a warranty claim after then the same as on an unopened item. On the flip side I once had a customer open a brand new, sealed laptop only to find a laptop with no charger and half a bag of Malteasers in the box: a seal isn't everything.

          As to opening the box in the store, certainly all the managers and customer service people I have worked with have no problem with a customer opening a purchased item in the store. For myself, I have been asked by customers if they can open an item they have just bought in store, my answer is always 'You paid for it, it's yours, open away'. I would also be interested to know if there was a display machine available this guy could have checked over in the store. I have only worked for the company a few years so this is before my time, but these days it is very very rare we won't have a computer we sell out on display for customers to inspect.

          As to the credit agreement itself that is actually at the heart of this story, credit law can be a complicated thing but I don't personally see how it could have reasonably taken this long to resolve, the latter part of the case seems to revolved around the outcome of the case in terms of damages, costs and the like rather than the actual credit agreement and sale itself. I have had to refund credit agreements from time to time and it is now a simple task of refunding the deposit and letting the credit provider know the details of the cancelled agreement and it is done. I can only imagine something went wrong in that process and once the initial cooling off period has expired the courts would be the only way to resolve the dispute. Again, I am too new to the company to know what processes would have been in place back then but I don't see it being something likely to happen now, and hopefully it was the exception rather the rule back when he bought his laptop too.

    4. John Tserkezis

      Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

      "So basically he was awarded £166,000, but wanted more and it back fired. So the long battle could of ended 6 years ago."

      The worst of malware can be measured in dollars, or pounds or whatever your currency of choice. Destruction of credit cannot be directly converted to an equivalent compensation in currency. Over 15 years, he's been repeatedly screwed a number of ways over a purchase he didn't want or ask for in the first place.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

      I'm not so sure about Mr Durkin's "greed". Consider the possibility that the way he was treated made him so angry that he wanted to punish the culprits as heavily as possible. Fining a large corporations a few thousand pounds is no punishment at all - that's what the executives spend on wine at lunch. A few million might get their attention for a day or two, at least.

    6. Tom 13

      Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

      That still leaves 9 years from the initial injury, with a black mark against his credit score the entire time. Sounds like a good bit more than £166,000 in damages to me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A bit missing from this article that sheds a different light..

        > That still leaves 9 years from the initial injury, with a black mark against his credit score the entire time.

        The black mark expires after 5 years.

        Curiously enough, the credit agreement was taken out in December 1998 and 4 years 10 months later he was unable to put down a 30% deposit on a Spanish property. His line of reasoning for this was as follows:

        1. He was unable to borrow at 0% interest on his credit cards.

        2. This led to him borrowing more from Northern Rock.

        3. That borrowing used up funds that could have been used for the deposit on the Spanish property.

        He did not claim that he was refused other loans or that he had to pay extra on his mortgage and loans due to the black mark. He claimed he was unable to take advantage of the credit card merry-go-round.

        The court decided that there was no causal link between his inability to buy a Spanish property and his bad credit reference. It was more to do with his general level of expenditure.

  7. Dave, Portsmouth

    Greedy

    Can't see any reasonable argument that one mark on a credit report could have cost him £250,000. Maybe next time I'm short-changed I'll sue them because I needed that to buy a lottery ticket, and I probably would have won!

    So certainly give him his money back, with interest, and maybe even double it for the inconvenience. But he deserves everything he gets (or doesn't get) after appealing his £160,000ish first offer.

    1. Anonymous C0ward

      Re: Greedy

      A lump sum isn't everything. He also needed the black mark to be removed and the credit agreement to be cancelled. Was this included in the first offer?

      1. Werner Heisenberg

        Except...

        Defaulted credit agreements only stay on file for 6 years from the date of default. It would have dropped off by 2004.

    2. Oninoshiko

      Re: Greedy

      Can't see any reasonable argument that one mark on a credit report could have cost him £250,000.

      The fine article stated that it affected his ability to secure financing for a house. Even if it only affected a few percentage points, I can see that adding up over the period of the loan.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Greedy

        Quote: "The fine article stated that it affected his ability to secure financing for a house. Even if it only affected a few percentage points, I can see that adding up over the period of the loan."

        If memory serves me right, 3 bedroom semi in a prime area in the south of the UK cost ~ 125K around that time. You could buy a house in the better areas of Finchley for that amount of money in 1998. Around Edinburgh? That would have fetched you a mansion. As far as Spanish properties circa 2003 (as referred by the article as as the official reason for the damages claim) - 250K would have bought a villa with a swiming pool in a prime location in the Canaries or Balearics. I do not remember the exact numbers, but I do not recall a single property on the market around Es Cana/Cala Llonga in July 1999 to be above 200. Most were under 110K with some as low as 65-70. 166K is 2007 prices (right before the crash).

        IMHO the court was actually on the generous side awarding the initial 166k. There is no way someone who needs a loan to buy a laptop would have been able "consume" more over the course of the 10 years while this case has dragged on. In fact I fail to see how this could have costed him 166k. A default on an unsecured consumer credit agreement raises the cost of your credit by ~ 2 points (if you never default on credit cards and other ongoing payments) 2% extra cost means that he has to have 800000 worth of credit outstanding for it to cost him 166K. Yeah, right, a person who will be given 800K worth of credit agreement in need to take a credit to buy a laptop.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Greedy

          It's not purely (or even mainly) a question of money or reputation. Mr Durkin deserved substantial compensation for the contemptuous and unfair way he was treated by PC World, HSBC, and HFC. The court should have assessed damages based on the need to teach those arrogant corporations a sharp and memorable lesson.

      2. Uncle Siggy

        Re: Greedy

        What has captured my attention is that the judges reduced the amount of the pay out to nothing when he asked for more. That is perplexing. Was it vindictiveness or a technicality?

  8. Terry 6 Silver badge

    HFC

    The worrying thing ( to me at least) is that they could feel able do this and then feel able to defend it.

    It just highlights the total lack of what we used to call "probity".

    A word that seems to be destined for the dustbin of history.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: HFC

      "It just highlights the total lack of what we used to call "probity". A word that seems to be destined for the dustbin of history."

      Probity and such concepts were always a myth in any area of financial services. I'm no spring chicken, but I can't remember a time when the financial services industry weren't mis-selling something or behaving in an immoral manner.

      It's taken me a whole two minutes to think of the following list that covers the past thirty years or so of financial services industry crookedness: Personal pensions, endowment mortgages, split capital trusts, precipice bonds, "tied" investment advice, OEIC investment funds, Collateralised debt obligations, "tied " annuities, PPI, interest rate swaps, credit and identity protection insurance, payday loans, SIPP pension plans. And that ignores wanton lending, that is perhaps the all time and ongoing mis-sale of the financial services industry, and the one that ultimately caused the current global financial mess. Arguably the invariably high rates on point of sale finance make that a product that was always mis-sold, but that's an area which the regulators have happily turned a blind eye to since time began.

      Every time it takes about a decade from the practice becoming mainstream to the industry being forced to pay compensation, and by that time there's already one further mis-selling scandal maturing, and a new scheme being hatched that will go on to be mis-sold.

      The FSA was useless, it's predecessors were useless, and I'll wager that the FCA will be useless. When it comes to financial services, consumers should (sadly) expect that anything they want to sell you is not in your best interests. In fact they should add that simple lesson to the national curriculum.

      Meanwhile, rather than bend the financial services industry over and put a rough stick wrapped in barbed wire up its back passage, the government have decided that the energy market needs a thorough competition and markets authority investigation. I wonder what the banks are mis-selling today, and I wonder what new products they are developing to mis-sell tomorrow?

      1. dogged

        Re: HFC

        Upvoted, but...

        > the FCA

        The Free Clothing Association?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HFC@ dogged

          "The Free Clothing Association?"

          Might as well be.

      2. James Micallef Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: HFC

        This: "they should add that simple lesson to the national curriculum".

        If the national curriculum replaced one of the many useless courses foisted on kids with a financial education programme, in a few years you'd have much less people in abject poverty and on the dole, more people creating and holding down jobs, a lot less people deep in unsustainable consumer debt.

        Of course no government would ever introduce such courses because it would also destroy the lottery/gambling business, decimate financial services income and depress tax revenue

      3. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: HFC

        "I wonder what the banks are mis-selling today, and I wonder what new products they are developing to mis-sell tomorrow?"

        Everything?

        Was this a trick question?

        BTW, you got an upvote from me.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: HFC

      Hmmm, I learnt a new word today. Thanks...

  9. skeptical i

    At least the plaintiff is relatively young.

    How many similarly situated elders have jumped the mortal coil before justice was rendered?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At least the plaintiff is relatively young.

      "How many similarly situated elders have jumped the mortal coil before justice was rendered?"

      The financial services industry can even craft a product for that situation: HSBC group was fined about £40m for flogging unsuitable products to older investors. This included advising elderly customers (average age of 83), to buy investment bonds to pay for their long-term care, even though the five-year investment period for the bonds was often longer than the customer's life expectancy.

      And this shows why the solution of "fining" the banks doesn't work. It's only investors money, there's no pain. The proper remedy should have been for those who did the mis-selling, those who devised the product, and their managers (up to and including the board) to have had each of their fingers bent back until the fingernail touched the wrist.

  10. Francis Vaughan

    Greed.

    Sorry, he turned down £166,000 ??? I think the "financial nightmare" is as much of his own making as anything else.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Greed.

      It seems to me that the courts have punished both sides equally for dragging this on so long. The credit agency have a Supreme Court decision that makes their business model definitively illegal (and I bet they'll be really popular at the next financial gougers' picnic!). The claimant has been punished for inefficiently pursuing the claim for so long. The pain is equally shared - something the courts are quite good at doing. So many legal principles are laid out in cases in which the claimant/plaintiff actually lost - see Donoghue v Stephenson for a classic example of a case that changed the law in a way that affects the whole country, but which the plaintiff ultimately lost.

  11. PunkTiger

    Black Marks and Credit Ratings

    Honest question: In the US, if you keep your credit record clean for 7 years after you've had a credit issue, that bad mark ages off making your record clean again. Does it work the same way in the UK, or are there different aspects that come into play?

    I ask because his fight has gone on for 15 years, more than double what would be necessary in the US to right his credit rating by just letting the black mark age off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Black Marks and Credit Ratings

      A default or judgement on a loan will remain on your credit record for 5 years.

      A clearout (you literally clearout from your address, don't tell the the lender and then default) will be on your record for 7 years.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Black Marks and Credit Ratings

      The problem is once you get the bad mark against you it is more likely you get more bad marks against you for a cumulative effect because that one bad mark costs you on more than just the house mortgage. It also affects consumer credit rates and possibly even job eligibility.

  12. herman Silver badge

    Avoiding the debt trap, eh.

    So at least one Canadian avoided the debt trap for 15 years. He should thank them.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well

    At 16 years, at least he avoided Vista!

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Well

      I think I'd rather have Vista than Windows 8.

  14. lansalot
    Happy

    ..

    What's s modem ?

  15. Rathernicelydone

    I find it completely extraordinary that HFC thought it prudent to let this matter go all the way to the supreme court for such a simple mistake. They will now have to pay their own and possibly the plaintiff's very high legal costs. I assume they were very badly advised by their lawyers and should not only fire them but sue them. If they didn't and this was due to their greed it serves them right.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I find it completely extraordinary that HFC thought it prudent to let this matter go all the way to the supreme court for such a simple mistake".

      It was a perfectly understandable mistake. They were simply acting on the principles that "the customer is always wrong" and "never give a sucker an even break". In other words, the fundamental principles of business.

  16. Jim Lewis

    This could so easily have been me. I bought from a retailer (Red Submarine IRC) in a music mag a high spec machine for around £2000 on a credit agreement. The company promptly went bust prior to delivery.

    Weeks later I received phone calls from a debt collection agency telling me I was liable for the cost of the machine or I had to prove non-delivery!

    I told them where to go and thankfully that was the last of it, but initially at least the credit company regarded me as having defaulted on the agreement.

    I've never regarded PC World very highly, but I certainly won't be visiting them again after this nightmare story, jeez, way to honour consumer rights.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Default

    A Default stays on your Credit File for six years. After that it's gone.

  18. weevil

    Mixed blessing. Putting a deposit on a house in Spain at the peak of the housing boom right before the crash. He should be thanking HFC, they saved him from a negative equity nightmare :)

  19. Hans 1 Silver badge

    Never take a loan to buy a computer, ever. Computers are the things that lose value the quickest, especially Windows boxen ...

    I remember buying a MacBook in early 2008 (shop display model - had just been replaced by a new model - 700 euro iso ~900) and selling it 1.5 years later (end of 2009) for the exact same price ... the mate got a superfast WindowsVista laptop he paid ~50% more for (~1000euro) and sold early 2010 for ~1/4 of the price. He gets MacBook pro's since ... ;-)

    No, seriously, never take out a loan for a computer, unless it is less than 6 months - it is not worth it ... by the time you have paid your computer the thing is worthless ... especially windows boxen.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      What's your take on "buy now pay later no fee (possibly hidden)"? Did that with the money in savings to pay of as soon as 8 months was up for no additional fees. :P

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Interest free options

        Did that once on some white goods from Argos: put it on their credit card thing, left it for the 12-18 months of the interest-free period, made sure there was enough kept on one side and cleared it just before the 0% expired.

        In general I avoid loans and credit agreements unless they're short-term. I use several credit cards, each with a different cash-back scheme, but clear them all in full each month, so I never pay any interest on them, and make a little bit back with the cash-back.

        I'd never buy a new car on a credit agreement. Because of that I'll never drive the latest, shiniest, coolest, most gadget-toting, fuel efficient vehicle, but I also won't pour thousands of pounds down the drain over the course of the agreement due to the horrendous depreciation of new cars! Drive a 3-5 year old car, and put the money saved in to paying off your mortgage, or saving for retirement.

        Honestly I really really recommend the MoneySavingExpert website: it's transformed my financial health, and savvy, since I started reading it in the late 2000s!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interest free options

          "...put it on their credit card thing, left it for the 12-18 months of the interest-free period, made sure there was enough kept on one side and cleared it just before the 0% expired".

          Good man. But do you know what credit card company managers call people like you (and me), who religiously pay off the full amount every month and never pay interest?

          "Deadbeats". Honest to God. Funny the way a word's meaning can change 180 degrees like that... 8-)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Interest free options

            "do you know what credit card company managers call people like you (and me), who religiously pay off the full amount every month and never pay interest? "Deadbeats"

            That's fine with me. They offer the interest-free periods, and the cashback etc. I'm simply (legally) taking advantage of what they're offering. And it's not as if they're not making *any* money out of us: there's still those fat credit card fees they charge the retailers.

  20. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    The court say 8000 / 15 years, that means ~6000 (and I am generous) 6 years ago, not 116 000. So, whatever you say is irrelevant, the court has all documents available.

    "Greed will be your downfall"

    Dungeon & Dragons - Eye of the Beholder

    Grammar Nazi because he wears a judge's attire

  21. Alan 19

    In the early 2000s I wandered into PC World in Hull and bought an HP laptop. Being an ethernet dunce at the time, I asked the rep about how to connect it to my modest network (no wifi then) as it had no networking. He sold me what turned out to be a PCMCIA ethernet card, and he suggested that I could snip off the adaptor's RJ connector and solder on a BNC plug instead. Or was it the other way round. He'd also discounted the laptop price heavily by bundling an extended warranty (£200+ worth IIRC). I got my revenge by cancelling the extended warranty within 28 days and I got a cash refund in the post. I found those sweaty purple shirts were hateful to deal with, and they would say anything to make a sale.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet he wishes he had checked the spec himself.

  23. paulc

    14 days right to cancel?

    Surely the credit agreement gave him the right to cancel it within 14 days?

  24. Allonymous Coward

    Richard Durkin's 15-year nightmare began when he walked into a PC World store

    Yup, I know that feeling.

  25. RobDog

    I know his pain, partly

    Here it is in easy slices

    Went into PC World, purchased HP notebook attached to 3 contract because I was specifically told it had a SIM slot and 3G hardware built in, by a HP 'specialist' in-store.

    Only it didn't; all it had was the slot but not the mini PCI hardware on board.

    Took it back 2 days later, was told the 'specialist' had been removed.

    Explained my woes and was told it would be too difficult to undo the 3 contract, and I could have virtually any other notebook as I had clearly been mis-sold.

    After hours of standing and waiting, whilst their guys went through every other model, it transpired none of the models offered had the 3G hardware.

    I walked out with what I hadn't asked for, a Samsung N310 with a compensatory RAM upgrade and some money shaved off. They wore me down, I should have stood my ground, I can see that now, and I am reminded every time I look at the N310.

    What a joke they are, and nowadays even worse based on the crap they shift. You can't buy pc upgrade parts or 'bits' any more. I long for stores like Fry's in the US.

    1. David Barrett Silver badge

      Re: I know his pain, partly

      Silly question, but could you not have asked for a refund for the cost of the mini PCI card and fitted it yourself?

      Of course, Id have expected some other compensation as well. memory and some cash maybe...

      I just had to have a look on-line because I thought that 3 should make the cancellation easy if you were still in the cooling off period and found this:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2009/12/cooling_off_mobile_phone_online.html

      Another reason to do everything online, already knew about the distance selling act, but didn't realise that there was no cool down for contracts bought in store!

  26. Knives&Faux

    I'm sorry but the guy is a massive wanker, ruining his own life(in his own words) to prove a point.

    He should have just bought a separate modem and got on with it.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      "He should have just bought a separate modem and got on with it."

      Hardly the point is it?

      If you want a snickers and are sold a mars bar and a bad of peanuts do you have a snickers? No.

      The point is that he was mis-sold goods, the store accepted this and accepted his return, the issue was that the credit agreement was not canceled meaning that they expected him to pay for goods that he didn't want and didn't own.

      If no one stands up for their rights we will have no rights, do you want to live in a country where a company can cock up the sale of a laptop so immensely that you cant buy a house in x years time? Because I dont.

  27. Dixey

    So nothing much as changed in just under 2000 years?

    If I recall correctly the first person to take action against the practices of the financial sector (ref: Mathew 21:12) eventually got hammered to a cross at the very early age of 33 (or thereabouts). For legal reasons, I should point out that I am not blaming the financial sector for that past act of violence, but I do suggest (only suggest, dear lawyers) that not an awful lot has changed since then, except maybe for the fact that Mr Durkin only got financially torn to shreds and not physically.

  28. miket82

    One up to the underdog

    Need I say more?

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