Law firm Maurice Blackburn will today lodge an open class action lawsuit against ANZ, Citibank and Westpac over credit card late fees with lawsuits against NAB, American Express and the Commonwealth Bank expected to follow.
The lawsuits come after a February victory against ANZ where the judge ruled that the bank’s late credit card fees were excessive and unconscionable. Unlike previous class actions, which have required people to register for a claim, Maurice Blackburn has gone forward with open class action lawsuits to represent every affected customer Australia wide.
A sticking point with ANZ in the February 2014 ruling is that the judge, Justice Michelle Gordon, waived the usual six-year time limit on legal action, saying that there was no restriction on how far back the claims could go, as potential claimants did not know the fees were unlawful until the lawsuit was lodged in 2010.
The new lawsuits are to be funded by litigation funder Bentham IMF, which plans to take 22.5 per cent of any winnings, subject to court approval.
For decades banks have been gouging customers with late fees and over the limit charges, and it felt as though there was no end in sight as they continued to implement and increase these fees. All of this changed in February 2014 with the ruling against ANZ. The ruling did throw out the claims against some of these fees and charges after evidence revealed the true cost to the bank of such issues, but the credit card late fee has finally been exposed as the cash cow it really is.
In the February 2014 case, Justice Michelle Gordon noted that the cost to the bank was as little as $0.50 when a late payment was made, but ANZ was charging late fees of up to $35. This case, and hopefully the class action being lodged today, will continue to keep the banks and credit card institutions in line to give us all a fair go.
What do you think? Are banks greedy? Should the banks be made to do more than just pay the money back after applying fees which have been found to be unconscionable?