16-year laptop credit agreement fight reaches supreme court

Richard Durkin claims HFC ‘annihilated’ his credit rating after a dispute over a credit agreement signed to purchase a laptop.
A man embroiled in a mammoth 16-year legal battle over a laptop found himself in the “absurd and horrid” position of having to keep paying for an item he had already returned to the shop, the supreme court has been told.
Richard Durkin, 44, has taken his case to the UK’s highest court after claiming that a bank “annihilated” his credit rating following a dispute over a credit agreement. He is seeking a six-figure sum after arguing that being wrongly blacklisted meant he was unable to buy a home.
The saga began in December 1998 when Durkin went to PC World to buy a laptop with an inbuilt modem. He bought the item with a £50 deposit and signed a credit agreement with HFC Bank, part of the HSBC group, for £1,449 to cover the balance, but subsequently returned it because it did not have an inbuilt modem.
However, the bank said he was still required to make payments under the terms of the agreement, and later put a default notice on Durkin’s credit files.
Andrew Smith QC, representing Durkin, told the panel of five justices that this was a case that potentially affected all consumers, and argued that when a contract of sale was cancelled the linked contract of credit fell away too.
If that was not the case, the result would be that the consumer would be paying for something he or she no longer had.
Smith added that the ability of a bank to “threaten” to report an individual to the credit reference agencies, as happened in this case, was “a powerful weapon which can have dramatic and disastrous effects on anyone … A small default can stop all credit from being provided”.
PC World previously argued that Durkin bought the laptop knowing that it did not have an internal modem.
The court heard that the bank had warned that if Durkin did not pay up, possible consequences included “difficulty in the future in obtaining a mortgage or other credit”.
HFC Bank has previously argued that Durkin “made no call on them to amend the entries” on his files, and that the injury and damage he claimed to have suffered was “too remote a consequence of the alleged negligence”.
A decision is expected within a few weeks.

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