When you get a credit card application, you have two choices: You can sign it and send it in, or you can decide you don't like the terms, and throw it in the trash.
But a Russian man went a third route: He changed the terms of the contract to be more to his liking, and wound up with a credit card that gave him unlimited, interest-free spending.
Russia Today reports that Dmitry Argarkov of Vornonezh, Russia, didn't find the terms of a credit card offer he received from Tinkoff Credit Systems in 2008 appealing. But instead of ripping it up, he scanned it into his computer, rewrote the terms to be much more in his favor, printed it out, signed it, and mailed it back. How much more in his favor? Under the new terms, he was to have a 0 percent APR, no fees and no credit limit. And the bank would incur huge fines every time it violated the terms of his agreement.
When the bank got back the application, it apparently didn't bother to check the fine print, and sent him back a credit card.
And when the bank terminated the card and tried to sue him for unpaid balances and fees, the court ruled more or less in his favor: It ordered him to pay his unpaid balance of 19,000 rubles ($575), but otherwise waived all other credit card fees.
"They signed the documents without looking. They said what usually their borrowers say in court: 'We have not read it,'" his lawyer, Dmitry Mikhalevich, told members of the press after the ruling.
But Argarkov isn't done with the bank: His contract calls for a 6 million-ruble ($182,400) termination fee, as well as a 3 million-ruble fine for each violation of the agreement. Since the bank canceled his card and tried to charge him interest and fees, he's now suing the bank for 24 million rubles ($730,000). Needless to say, the bank has pledged to fight.
"According toour lawyers, he is going to get not 24 million rubles, but 4 years in prison for fraud. Now it's a matter of principle for @tcsbank," tweeted Tinkoff Credit Systems founder Oleg Tinkov (pictured, above).
Maybe next time they'll read the fine print they're so fond of using.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.