• Richard Durkin, 44, bought laptop from PC World in Aberdeen in 1998
  • He returned it because it had no modem, but was refused a refund
  • Finance was from HFC Bank who refused to cancel credit agreement
  • PC World relented but HFC told him he had to carry on making payments
  • He was credit blacklisted, which he says stopped him from buying a home
  • Supreme Court today rules bank was wrong and awards £8,000 damages
  • Mr Durkin: ‘Sometimes you have to do what is right, and not what is easy’
  • He believes case is a ‘great victory’ for consumers and sets ‘precedent’

By
Mark Duell

05:45 EST, 26 March 2014


|

16:55 EST, 26 March 2014

An oil worker who has been facing bankrupcy by spending £250,000 on legal fees today won a 16-year court battle over a laptop.

Richard Durkin, a 44-year-old father of two, claimed that HFC Bank ruined his credit rating after he tried to back out of an agreement to buy a computer from PC World for £1,499.

He took his case to court and initially won, but it was overturned. However, today the Supreme Court in Central London allowed his appeal and ruled he should receive damages of £8,000.

Victory: Richard Durkin has won a 16-year legal battle over a laptop and been awarded £8,000 in damages. However the case has cost him £250,000

Victory: Richard Durkin has won a 16-year legal battle over a laptop and been awarded £8,000 in damages. However the case has cost him £250,000

Mr Durkin said that he was disappointed the Supreme Court did not restore the damages of £116,000 awarded by a Scottish court in 2008.

But he added in a statement: ‘This decision is a great victory for all consumers and I am proud to have been the driving force behind it.

Long battle: Father-of-two Richard Durkin claimed that HFC Bank ruined his credit rating

Long battle: Father-of-two Richard Durkin claimed that HFC Bank ruined his credit rating

‘As a result of the decision, no consumer will have to endure again what I had to put up with – the loss of the ability to buy a family home because of wrongful blacklisting of me.

‘Taking a case to any court is a huge stress, but taking it to the highest court in the land with all the risks that go with it was the most stressful thing that anyone could voluntarily put themselves through. But sometimes you have to do what is right, and not what is easy.

‘This case was not all about me. It was about principle for all consumers. I always felt that PC World and HFC Bank had acted disgracefully towards me, and I have now been proved right.’

In an earlier hearing, a court ordered the bank to pay him £116,000 in damages, but after that decision was reversed he launched a new appeal at the highest court in Britain.

Mr Durkin, an offshore construction surveyor, bought the laptop from the Aberdeen branch of PC World in 1998, paying a £50 deposit and signing a £1,499 credit agreement with HFC – now part of HSBC – for the remainder.

He claimed he was told he could get a refund if he had a problem with the computer, but when he complained that it did not have an inbuilt modem a manager said he could not have his money back.

Although PC World eventually relented, HFC told Mr Durkin he was obliged to carry on making payments, arguing that the credit agreement was legally unrelated to the purchase of the computer.

He was put on a credit blacklist until 2005, which he believes prevented him from buying a new home in Spain.

Mr Durkin insisted all along that the
credit agreement with HFC was dependent on the purchase of the laptop,
meaning that it was void as soon as he returned the computer.

Battle: Mr Durkin insisted all along that the credit agreement with HFC was dependent on the purchase of the laptop at PC World (pictured), meaning that it was void as soon as he returned the computer

Battle: Mr Durkin insisted all along that the credit agreement with HFC was dependent on the purchase of the laptop at PC World (pictured), meaning that it was void as soon as he returned the computer

Bank: Mr Durkin bought the laptop from the Aberdeen branch of PC World in 1998, paying a £50 deposit and signing a £1,499 credit agreement with HFC - now part of HSBC (pictured) - for the remainder

Bank: Mr Durkin bought the laptop from the Aberdeen branch of PC World in 1998, paying a £50 deposit and signing a £1,499 credit agreement with HFC – now part of HSBC (pictured) – for the remainder

In
2008, Aberdeen Sheriff Court ruled that he was entitled to cancel the
agreement and awarded him damages of £116,000.

But
two years later the
ruling was overturned at the court of session in Edinburgh – after he
had appealed against the sheriff’s assessment of his damages.

Mr
Durkin took his fight to the Supreme Court, which said today he was
entitled to rescind the credit agreement and had done so ‘validly’. Five
justices delivered their decision at a hearing.

He told Sky News: ‘I’m happy for the consumer, disappointed for myself – the Supreme Court not being able to rectify what’s gone down in Edinburgh. It’s massive for the other consumers.

Judgment: Five justices delivered their decision at a Supreme Court hearing in London

Judgment: Five justices delivered their decision at a Supreme Court hearing in London

‘It means what happened to me shouldn’t happy to other folk. It’s good for my kids, it’s good for everyone else in this situation – they can use this case as a precedent.’

Delivering the Supreme Court ruling,
Lord Hodge said: ‘I would allow the appeal and declare that Mr Durkin
was entitled to rescind and validly rescinded the credit agreement by
giving notice to HFC in about February 1999.

‘I’m happy for the consumer, disappointed for myself. It’s massive for the other consumers’

Richard Durkin

‘Damages resulting from HFC’s breach of its duty of care are confined to injury to Mr Durkin’s credit in the sum of £8,000.

‘I would give the parties an opportunity to agree the date from which interest should run and the rate or rates of interest to be applied.’

Court costs have not been settled yet, but Mr Durkin – represented by Compass Chambers solicitors of Edinburgh – said the Law Society of Scotland had ‘funded the court fees which I could not afford’.

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‘I’ve got mixed feelings, I suppose,’ said Mr Durkin. ‘I’m
glad that I’ve helped the greater good with a consumer victory.’

But he added: ‘I’ve got myself into a lot of debt, basically…
There’s a lot expenses still to be distributed – hopefully I’ll get something
back, I’ve put about £250,000 into it.’

The comments below have not been moderated.

Rocco77,

Jomtien Thai and London, Thailand,

moments ago

What I just don’t understand, bearing in mind he says he has paid out £250,000 on this case, WHY DIDN’T HE PAY CASH ? then this case would never have happened !

Pendragon,

Sydney, Australia,

2 hours ago

So if he returned the computer and the company accepted it back, why was he still liable to pay for the loan? This should not have taken so long and cost so much money. I cannot believe what Mr Durkin was put through. A total disgrace.

benchcy,

sandhurst, berks,

3 hours ago

Thats why i dont bother buying at PC WORLD.. Total rip off! Buy online (ebuyer.com), use topcashback ( get some money back), use paypal (secure and can have your morny refunded)… all is safe. You can return the product if not satisfied within 28 days! What else can you ask for?

theronstar,

London, United Kingdom,

2 hours ago

I don’t know if I like PayPal. I know a lot of people who have had problems with it.

James expat,

Perth,

3 hours ago

“But sometimes you have to do what is right, and not what is easy”

With litigation costs of GBP250k sounds like a case of cutting your nose to
spite your face!

denisherring,

christchurch nz, New Zealand,

3 hours ago

If you “buy” an item and seek credit, you must realise that the credit company is lending YOU money, that is send to the retailer or whatever for the goods or servces received. It was surely a minor problem to obtain a modem that links to a communications company BT or whoever. Someone or people in this case are idiots for allowing it to continue.

theronstar,

London, United Kingdom,

2 hours ago

Though surely if fundamentally he bought the laptop because he was told it had an internal modem, he’d be within his rights to return it.

jo,

dublin,

4 hours ago

Such a vital victory for consumers. I’m so sick of these large companies fooling consumers and consistently getting away with it because they know no one will do anything about it. Fair play to him! And his fees would be paid for if he won the case, delighted for him.

albertini,

Manchester, England,

4 hours ago

16 years?

Don’t believe the spin,

UK,

4 hours ago

He’s a hero for all consumers and we should be grateful not berating. Anyone who calls him an idiot is a far greater one.

Tobytomkitten,

Australia, Australia,

4 hours ago

Idiocy to proceed.

Machinist_X,

Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom,

4 hours ago

anyone who shops at pc world is a idiot

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