Man Edits Credit Card Terms; Bank Unwittingly Approves

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on August 15, 2013 9:49 AM

To answer the question if a man can write his own credit card terms, and in honor of comedian Yakov Smirnoff, we present the following non-joke:

In America you get sued for not paying credit card bill, in former-Soviet Russia you sue credit card company!

Apparently in the land of bears, vodka, caviar, and NSA leaker asylum-seekers, Dmitry Agarkov was able to successfully draft his own credit card terms of service, which the bank unwittingly signed and was held to in court, reports Gawker.

From Russia With TOS Love

Agarkov received a credit card application in the mail like many Americans do. But instead of signing it as-is, reports New York Daily News, he used the credit company's version as a template and added the following revisions:

  • 0% interest,
  • No fees or maintenance charges, and
  • No credit limit.

Tinkoff Credit Systems signed the application, without reading it. That meant the company could not legally collect the $1,363 in late fees and charges it felt it was owed, because it was bound by the terms of its own agreement, Gawker reports.

Eastern Contract Promises

Russia's legal system may be slightly different from ours, but the lesson about being the master of your own offer is a good one.

Whether you're a fictional teen mermaid or a future surrogate mother, you owe it to yourself to read the contracts which you are asked to sign -- and to change the terms to which you don't agree.

To be clear, credit card applications like the ones Agarkov and most Americans receive every day are not contracts, and they aren't even offers. Rather, they are invitations for an offer by you, which just happens to be in language that is very beneficial for the credit card company.

Since legally each offeror fully controls his own offer, anyone can freely change a standard credit card or bank form to include the terms that one likes and exclude the terms that one doesn't. The company receiving your new offer doesn't have to accept -- especially if someone plans on reading it first. But if no one raises an issue, the company could potentially be bound to your doctored terms.

On the other hand, a court may refuse to uphold the contract if the terms are unconscionable or grossly unfair -- even though they don't seem to rule this way very often with predatory businesses.

So let's give Agarkov some credit for being a crafty consumer. But remember, what he did may not work the same way in our part of the world.

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