Debt collectors for a leading bank are demanding an office clerk pay $13,000 in collection charges even though he has settled a late credit-card payment plus interest. The demands come just weeks after a High Court judge said bank clauses which hold customers responsible for all costs and expenses incurred in recovering debts were unreasonable and unfair. The clerk, who did not want to be named, was shocked to find he still owes $13,595 to the bank's collection agency after he settled a $35,969 debt with Hang Seng Bank on August 10. Documents seen by the South China Morning Post include settlement of the credit-card and interest payments and a statement from the bank claiming the clerk still has to pay collection fees amounting to 25 per cent of the debts he has paid. In the letter dated August 21, the bank also warned: 'Our collection action will be continued until your full settlement of the collection agency fee of HK$13,595.41. [This] represents our loss suffered as a result of your default for which we are holding you liable.' The card holder said he could not recall when the debt began but said he had paid minimum charges to the bank every month until May and repaid the full amount this month. He criticised the bank for choosing the 'most expensive' debt collection agency and vowed to take the bank to court, saying the collection charges were more expensive than lawyers' fees. 'They called my mobile when I was in the office. I was so disturbed and could not concentrate on my daily work,' he said. 'But I couldn't grumble over the phone because I was frightened my colleagues would find out what happened . . . It should be left to the court to decide whether it is reasonable for debtors to afford the expensive collection fees on top of the high interest charges.' In a judgment involving 10 credit-card holders on July 10, Mr Justice David Yam Yee-kwan criticised Hang Seng Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Pacific Finance (Hong Kong) for charging customers 'extortionate' interest rates for credit-card and personal loans and ruled the 10 need pay only part of the charges. 'In the natural and ordinary meaning of this cost provision, it can extend to all costs and expenses [not just legal costs] even unreasonably incurred,' the judge said. 'There is no upper limit. Such a clause is capable of being applied unconscionably. It just leaves the consumer to the mercy of the other party.' Hang Seng Bank said the judgment was only valid for that particular case. 'The judgment of the High Court did not decide that a debtor is not liable for the loss suffered by a bank as a result of the debt-recovery procedure,' a spokesman said. 'Credit-card holders are responsible for the loss suffered by the bank as a result of their default in prepayment. Such loss includes the expenses incurred by the bank as a result of the debt recovery procedures, including collection agency fees.' Audrey Eu Yuet-mee SC, who helped the court in that case, said the judgment would not apply to other debtors unless they went to court. 'They cannot benefit unless they bring their cases to court because other judges would consider the ruling a precedent for their decisions,' she said. Consumer Council deputy chief executive Li Kai-ming said banks should amend loan terms in accordance with the ruling to improve their public image.