The fight against bank fees will go to court on Monday with the start of Australia’s largest consumer class action in Melbourne.
Around 38,000 ANZ bank customers have joined the class action to fight for the return of more than $220 million in bank fees.
The start of the action in the Federal Court in Melbourne follows a High Court ruling in September last year that allowed an appeal against an earlier Federal Court ruling that limited what ANZ bank charges could be regarded as penalties.
The High Court unanimously rejected the Federal Court’s proposition that penalties or punishments only related to actions that breached a contract, such as late-payment fees.
The ANZ class action will now also include dishonour fees of between $25 and $45 imposed on overdrawn accounts.
“The fees range, but $25 to $35 is the sort of range for fees that are imposed, so you might be a dollar over on your account or a day late in your payment and the banks will slug you with a fee that’s out of all proportion to what it costs them for that minor transgression,” Andrew Watson from law firm Maurice Blackburn, which is representing customers, told the ABC.
“We think it’s worth (in total) about $50 million, but overall we’re running a case for 170,000 bank customers against eight major banks, and that’s worth about $220 million.”
The broader class action currently involves 170,100 customers and rising, claiming $223 million from the ANZ, BankSA, Bankwest, Citibank, Commonwealth, NAB, St George and Westpac.
The case is backed by litigation funder IMF (Australia) Ltd.
Mr Watson said the ANZ action was the first of the cases to go to trial.