find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
Ruling clears way for ANZ class action challenge

Ruling clears way for ANZ class action challenge

The High Court today (6 September) ruled that unfair bank fees can qualify as penalties, clearing the way for Maurice Blackburn to challenge the legality of over-limit and late fees in its class action against ANZ.

The decision is a big win for 38,000 ANZ customers currently involved in the class action, said James Middleweek (pictured), investment manager of IMF Australia, the litigation funder. The plaintiffs had appealed against a 2011 Federal Court ruling that limited the number of bank charges that could be regarded as penalties.

Maurice Blackburn will, with “much confidence”, return to the Federal Court and argue that certain ANZ exception fees are penalties, and therefore void and refundable, Middleweek told Lawyers Weekly.

“The High Court of the day has said these [fees] might potentially be illegal,” he said.

“This made a big difference to our case ... it puts us firmly on the front foot and the onus is now on ANZ and the other banks to demonstrate what their true costs were.”

Today’s ruling is an important point of law, according to Maurice Blackburn class actions principal Andrew Watson. “[The decision] has expanded the doctrine of penalties, so that the courts will now focus on the reality of these sorts of fees,” he said.

The appeal was part of a wider class action on behalf of 170,000 customers from ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB, Westpac, St George, Citibank, BankWest and Bank SA, who are seeking more than $220 million over what they claim are “excessive and extravagant” bank charges far beyond the actual cost of administration to the banks.

In what appears to be an admission of wrongdoing, the banks have reduced their fees substantially in recent years, said Middleweek. ANZ dishonour fees, which used to hover around the $30 mark, have more than halved, while other banks have abolished certain exception fees altogether.

“The fact that many banks have since eliminated or slashed these fees will make [their] task even harder,” he said. “It is difficult to see how they can justify charging the fees they used to charge, unless they’re now running those parts of their operations at a substantial loss.”

Middleweek claimed there are still a number of banks and credit card companies charging “exorbitant exception fees” and warned these institutions that more class actions are likely to follow the ANZ case.

ANZ claimed that it’s still early days for the class action and that today’s judgment does not provide a resolution for the plaintiffs. ANZ CEO Australia Philip Chronican pointed out that the High Court has not determined whether ANZ’s fees are, in fact, penalties.

“Neither today's decision nor the earlier December 2011 Federal Court decision has considered whether the fees in question were excessive,” Chronican said in a statement.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Ruling clears way for ANZ class action challenge
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
Marriage equality flag
Aug 17 2017
ALHR backs High Court challenge to marriage equality postal vote
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has voiced its support for a constitutional challenge to ...
Give advice
Aug 17 2017
A-G issues advice on judiciary’s public presence
Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis QC has offered his advice on the public presence of jud...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...