The morality of borrowing and lending

On the subject of my car replacement, again; when it came to buying the new car, my easily-available savings fell short of the price by a couple of grand. I could have possibly put the difference on my credit card, but instead I decided to put it on a car finance agreement.

This has advantages and disadvantages: cheaper interest rates and penalty-free early payment, against a 200 quid admin charge upfront. However, it also gave me the statutory 14 days “no-reason-necessary” cooling off period, in which case, all I would pay was a flat-rate 77 pence a day interest, and no admin charge.

When I got the cheque for the insurance at the weekend, I thought that if it could clear in time, I could pay the credit off. But it was not going to happen. But then I read the agreement again. The cooling off period was 14 days – ending today; but it said I only had to pay it off within 30 days of cancelling – i.e. 30 days from today. The insurance will clear my bank in a few days, so I decided to go ahead.

Now, I felt a little guilty at this, that I was gaming the system; but I figured the finance company has bigger pockets than mine, so I made the call and I explained I wanted to exercise my legal right to cancel within 14 days.

“That expires today” said the customer service advisor.

“Yes,” I said, “Which means I can still cancel it, right?”

“Well, yes,” she said. “But only if you can give me immediate payment by credit card over the phone.” Very sure of herself, quite aggressive.

“Wait a moment. I am now reading from the form I signed. ‘You must repay the credit without delay, and no more than 30 days from the date of cancellation’. Is that not correct?”

“Errr…. yes, but I can take a payment by credit card now.”

“But I don’t have to give you the payment by credit card. If I post you a cheque, and allow an additional 77p per day for the time it takes you to receive it; and you get it within 30 days, then I have met the terms of the agreement, no?”

Grudgingly: “Yes.”

“OK, you will have a cheque by Monday.”

Strangely, I no longer feel at all guilty at having gamed the system; as they are obviously doing so themselves, and are relying on people not having read the actual terms of the agreement (and their legal rights).

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