According to a news report, Dmitry Argarkov of Voronezh, Russia, received a letter offering him a credit card. He didn’t like the bank’s terms, so he scanned the application into his computer and made a few alterations, then sent it off to the bank. In due course he received back a copy of the contract – signed by the bank – and a shiny new credit card.

The bank later tried to close the account because payment was overdue. It sued Mr Argarkov for 45,000 roubles of fees and charges.

Unfortunately for the bank, apparently no one actually read Mr Argarkov’s altered version of the contract before they signed it. The new terms were definitely not in the bank’s, er… interest:

  • a zero per cent interest rate
  • no fees
  • no credit limit
  • every time the bank failed to comply with the rules, he would fine them 3 million roubles ($A100,000)
  • if the bank tried to cancel the contract, it would have to pay him 6 million roubles

This week a Russian court found in Mr Argarkov’s favour, and ordered him to pay only the outstanding amount due on his account.

“The Bank confirmed its agreement to the client’s terms and sent him a credit card and a copy of the approved application form,” his lawyer, Dmitry Mikhalevich, said. “They signed the documents without looking. They said what usually their borrowers say in court: ‘We have not read it’.” Mr Argarkov is now suing the bank for 24 million roubles for breaking the agreement and not honouring the contract.

The bank has launched its own legal action, accusing Mr Argarkov of fraud. I’m sure the bank would argue mea culpa (“my mistake”) if Mr Argarkov had signed an agreement without reading it. They’d be quick to deny liability for the customer’s mistake.

But I guess that’s different.

Kids with the right idea

Kids are the future, and I love hearing about kids who are making a difference – whether to their own lives or to other people’s lives. It’s even better when kids show responsibility and initiative that’s sadly lacking in a lot of adults. These street kids in Old Delhi, India, have taken it upon themselves to do what adults/authorities were either unable or unwilling to do for them.

In Child’s play: Indian street youth develop model banking system RT tells how a group of kids in a shelter for homeless children in New Delhi run a branch of the children’s development khazana (Indian for ‘treasure’) that serves around 9,000 street children across South Asia and has 77 branches. The bank provides a safe place for their earnings and allows them to take out loans. The kids have a monthly meeting where they review applications for advances; based on clients’ track records of saving and earning, they decide who will receive an advance and how long they can take to pay it back.

“In a time when many people would argue that the global financial system is on the brink of collapse and that the system itself might be fundamentally flawed, it seems like these teenagers from the streets of New Delhi have the whole thing figured out. They hold everyone from the account managers to the clients accountable for their financial decisions,” says the RT report.

An RT reader, commenting on the report, said, “We are so aware of all our flaws and all the things that could go wrong in our lives. These kids are such an inspiration. We can truly be anyone and anything we want to, if we’re ready to accept ourselves and embrace life the way these kids have. This story brought a smile through the tears.”

In a blog post, Down and out in Delhi, on UNICEF’s Voices of Youth website, Andy Brown describes a visit to the shelter and the bank.

Read more about Butterflies, the charity that runs the shelter, here.