Hello all, sorry I haven’t written for a while.
My next big credit damages trial comes up in April against HSBC, formerly known as “Household Bank”. I suppose they formerly called themselves “Household” because that’s what they would grab, in its entirety, whenever you were late on a payment to them.
Our current case indeed shows their rapacious ways. It turns out HSBC is the actual credit card retailer and provider behind several retail stores, which HSBC does not disclose to the stores’ customers. In the current case, it was the former electronics store The Good Guys! HSBC was the actual credit card provider, and owned all of the credit accounts, for all of The Good Guys! customers.
My client, Stewart, had an established relationship with The Good Guys! in purchasing electronics on a “same as cash/no monthly payments” basis, and in fact had made four such previous purchases and had never defaulted on any of his obligations. On his fifth and final transaction with The Good Guys!, however, The Good Guys! clerk offered him the exact same terms but entered the purchase into The Good Guys!/HSBC’s system as “same as cash/minimum monthly payments required.” One month later, HSBC send my client a bill for a monthly payment, using The Good Guys! letterhead on the bill. There is no mention whatsoever of HSBC. My client disputes it, but rather than risk damage to his credit, he pays off the entire credit account, in full, figuring that would take care of it.
But Stewart did not realize which bank he was dealing with. Rather than accept the payment in full of the entire account, HSBC accelerated the entire account (Stewart had not finished paying off two of his previous transactions, as the time for final payment had not yet arrived) and charged him a hefty late fee. HSBC also dinged his credit. HSBC then adopted the terrorist tactic of “refusing to negotiate”. Stewart had to hire me to get anywhere with them.
HSBC’s defense, which I’m confident a jury would love, is that a “bill stuffer” which HSBC had sent around to its customers contained a whole bunch of small-print terms & conditions which essentially stripped Stewart, along with every other HSBC account holder, of all of his rights. Stewart never had to read and sign this bill stuffer (which identified itself as having come from HSBC, not The Good Guys!, further concealing HSBC’s role in this rip-off), because the bill-stuffer declared that if he’d used his card for any reason, or made a payment, following the mailing of the bill-stuffer, this was the same as signing off on the agreement. The bill-stuffer is about 14 pages long and has tiny, tiny print. It would take a trained lawyer a half-day to read it. Like we all have a half-day to read this crap when all we’re doing is buying some electronics?
Anyway, HSBC filed a bunch of motions to have the case thrown out of court, but the San Diego Superior Court said that Stewart gets a trial in this case. Trial is set for early April. Should be interesting. I’ll keep all & everyone updated on the progress of the case. Hopefully, a jury will see it our way & teach HSBC a good lesson about this kind of anti-consumer conduct.
Thanks for reading & hope you’re doing well.