WASHINGTON — Some consumers might be in for a surprise if they take their banks to court over checking or credit card disputes: A provision in account agreements says even if you win, you lose.
Checking account disclosures at four large banks and one large credit union make the customer liable for the bank's losses, costs or expenses — including attorney fees — from any dispute over the account, regardless of who wins.
HSBC's 36-page Rules for Deposit Accounts phrases its clause this way:
"You agree to be liable to the bank for any losses, costs or expenses the bank incurs as a result of any dispute involving your account. You authorize the bank to deduct any such losses, costs or expenses from your account without prior notice to you."
Neil Brazil, an HSBC spokesman, said the bank's provision was designed primarily to protect it from any losses it might incur from legal disputes between the primary account holder and other authorized users, such as a spouse.
The moral of course being, read the damn paperwork.