Should the bank fees class actions prevail, any customer who has ever been charged a late payment fee by Westpac, St. George, Citibank, BankSA and ANZ will be eligible to share in an eventual successful outcome.
Depending on the firm’s success, a view exists to extend this action to cover nine financial institutions in all, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, BankWest and American Express added to the mix.
Head of Maurice Blackburn’s class action practice, Andrew Watson, says the firm’s headway with challenging ANZ earlier this year has “opened up the gates of justice”.
“That victory earlier this year was not only for the thousands of ANZ customers we were acting for, but on behalf of every consumer that has ever been charged a late fee,” says Watson.
“Today we have filed open class actions against Westpac, Citibank, St.George, BankSA and ANZ, and should we succeed, any customer of these banks that has ever been charged late payment fees will have a right to access some compensation for those unfair charges.
“Our case is based on the earlier Federal Court ruling against ANZ, and while that judgment is still under appeal, we think we have a very strong case and that this course of action provides the best safeguard for the rights of all those consumers affected by late fees.”
Litigation funder Bentham IMF has financed the class action.
The group’s investment manager James Middleweek says the regime is the only effective means for individuals to challenge corporations in Australia.
“It is clearly evident from this case that the class action regime in Australia – backed by litigation funding – is the only genuinely effective vehicle to offer commercial redress to people that are subjected to corporate wrongdoing in this way,” says Middleweek.
History of the bank fees class actions in Australia:
- 22 September 2010: First bank fees class action filed against ANZ
- 5 December 2011: Justice Gordon in the Federal Court finds that late payment fees are capable of being penalties, but finds for ANZ on other fees
- 16 December 2011: Class actions filed against Commonwealth, Westpac, NAB and Citibank
- 22 December 2011: Maurice Blackburn appeals adverse findings in Justice Gordon's December judgment
- 1 February 2012: Class action filed against Westpac subsidiaries St George and BankSA
- 18 April 2012: Class action filed against BankWest
- 11 May 2012: High Court grants leave to appeal Justice Gordon's judgment of 5 December 2011
- 14 August 2012: High Court hears appeal from Justice Gordon's judgment of 5 December 2011
- 6 September 2012: High Court rules that bank fees can be considered penalties
- 2-10 December 2013: Bank fees class action trial against ANZ runs in the Federal Court before Justice Michelle Gordon
- 5 February 2014: Justice Gordon hands down judgment finding that late payment fees on credit cards are penalties and should be repaid, with no retrospective time limitation on claims. Justice Gordon finds for the ANZ on the other fees.
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