Australia's largest consumer class action against ANZ Banking Group continued in the Federal Court yesterday (3 October).
Marking the first major step in the case since its launch in September last year, 34,000 ANZ customers, represented by Maurice Blackburn, will continue their fight against the bank in a two-week hearing.
The class action against ANZ first began in the Federal Court on 22 September 2010 in relation to the bank's penalty or "exception" fees imposed on customers. These fees included the levying of honour and dishonour fees on bank accounts, as well as over limit and late fee payments on credit cards.
"This hearing will answer important questions regarding the definitions within the contracts between ANZ and its customers, of what is a fee, or a charge," said Maurice Blackburn principal Andrew Watson. "We know that customers who were late paying a credit card or overdrawing their account were charged $30 or more. We believe that it did not cost ANZ anywhere near the amount in terms of managing an overdrawn or late payment on an account."
According to Watson, ANZ must demonstrate that an exception fee is a reasonable estimate of the loss caused to ANZ when a customer does not pay on time or overdraws an account. But if the bank cannot show that, its customers are entitled to a refund.
"ANZ said these rules do not apply to it because the charge is just a fee for a service offered to its customers," explained Watson. "This hearing will answer important questions about the rights of ANZ customers to protect themselves against exorbitant fees and charges and about whether banks have a right to charge whatever fees they want.
"This is the first time that a court has considered the questions at the heart of this historic case."