The class action law firm has filed with the Federal Court the first of the Bank Fees class actions, against Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.
Lawyer Bernard Murphy, chairman of Maurice Blackburn, said the case against the ANZ is very strong and will allege that charging these exception fees is illegal. The case will allege that the bank’s conduct was “unconscionable or unfair within the meaning of the ASIC, Trade Practices and Fair Trading Acts”, he said.
“We will argue that fees charged were unjust within the meaning of the Consumer Credit Code.”
ANZ is the first bank set to face mass legal action involving three lead applicants and at least 27,199 individuals and businesses holding about 40,000 personal and business accounts.
The bank penalty or exception fees imposed by ANZ to customers consist of honour and dishonour fees on bank accounts, and over limit and late payment fees on credit cards.
It is estimated that the total value of the ANZ class action to date is in excess of $50 million, with the average claim being around $1,500 per account holder and the range being from hundreds of dollars to over $35,000. The total claim is for a refund of these unfair fees paid over the last six years (since 2004), plus interest, Maurice Blackburn said in a statement.
A claim has also been made for recovery of exception fees incurred prior to the normal six year limitation period.
Financial Redress has now registered the holders of more than 210,000 accounts as group members to class actions against the twelve banks, announced in May.
The legal action is being funded on a no-win no fee basis by litigation funder IMF Australia Ltd and managed by its subsidiary Financial Redress.
Managing director of Financial Redress, James Middleweek said: “Until very recently the banks were deducting $1.2 billion a year in unfair exception fees.
“In the court of public opinion, these unfair, excessive fees were already proving indefensible by the banks, so much so that some banks, including ANZ, were forced to reduce or abolish them from late last year.
“It is simply unfair that ANZ Bank could charge, say $35, for going $1 over a limit on a credit card when the actual cost is negligible. The fee far exceeds the true cost to the bank,” he said.