So he went into PC World and…

You can hold it there. I already feel like Ruth weeping amid the alien corn. But back to Durkin v DSG Retail Ltd and HFC Bank Plc.

…into PC World in 1998 and asked if the laptop had a built-in modem.

‘Yes, it does.’

He bought it on the understanding that he could return it if it didn’t have a built-in modem, paid a £50 deposit and signed a consumer credit agreement to cover the balance.

The laptop did not have an inbuilt modem. And the agreement had small print.

The salesperson now vanishes from the story as an irrelevance, leaving a costly wake of litigation and a judge in Scotland asking: ‘What is a credit reference agency?’

The bench exudes energy, led by a brightly fascinated Lady Hale. Amid discussion of the doctrine of confusio, I meander down memory lane.

There was the time the London Electricity Board (RIP) broke into my flat and changed the locks because they mistook it for the flat upstairs, without apology (or new keys). The time the Nationwide lost the deeds to my flat.

And the time the Royal Bank of Scotland mysteriously changed the payee for my mortgage standing order. When I found out, having been put on the danger list by my mortgagee, I rang someone at RBS. ‘We were wondering when you’d get in touch,’ he sniggered, as if I’d been the subject of a bet.

None of these is analogous to the credit agreement issue. But I am lamenting those modem moments we all share, which could be avoided if someone gave a toss.

In court today, a tourist couple shove me half off the end of the bench by plonking themselves down in a space meant for one. As I hang on to my restricted perch I think of the Nationwide some decades ago, initially refusing me a mortgage on the stated grounds that I was a single woman, not a couple.

‘I am financially entitled to a mortgage,’ I snapped.

‘But ethically?’ he sneered.

Children, that’s the way things were. I was thought to be not a bad debt, but a morally undeserving one: those were the days when mortgages were not being thrust at consumers.

On my way home, I see an Ocado van smash the wing mirror of an illegally double-parked rental van. Does anyone care about anything?


Every time I pass my local PC World, Pavlovian conditioning evokes a scene from The West Wing in which CJ warns an erring colleague: ‘I’m going to shove a motherboard so far up your ass.’

Today hasn’t helped.

More pictures if you scroll down.

This post was originally published on Isobel’s blog, Drawing from an uncomfortable position.