Australia’s leading consumer law firm has today announced a class action in New Zealand against New Zealand banks Westpac, BNZ and ASB, as part of legal action against unfair penalty fees.
Slater and Gordon has partnered with New Zealand lawyer Andrew Hooker, who will lead the Fair Play on Fees class action, and litigation funder Litigation Lending Services.
Mr Hooker said court documents would be lodged against the three banks on Friday, 28 February, 2014.
The launch of Fair Play on Fees has seen more than 38,000 Kiwis sign up to date, of which 7300 are Westpac customers, 5000 are BNZ customers and 6000 are ASB customers
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Slater and Gordon Commercial and Project Litigation lawyer Ben Hardwick said the class action was being extended to include Westpac, BNZ and ASB customers because they had also paid penalty fees and wished to be represented in the legal action.
“The research we have done suggests the penalty fees they have been paying are at a similar level to those other banks, so these customers are entitled to have their fees paid back as much as Kiwibank and ANZ customer,” Mr Hardwick said.
“This launch means that the five banks, with over 90 per cent of the retail banking market, will face a Fair Play on Fees case.”
The lead plaintiff for the case against BNZ is Chris Beere who has banked with BNZ for approximately 35 years, and in the past six years has incurred more than $1400 in default fees.
The lead plaintiffs for ASB and Westpac are Alsion Withers and Renee and Mike Hau respectively. Alison worked for a bank when she left school and believes customers are charged fees at a significantly higher rate in the electronic age.
The penalty fees include unarranged overdrafts (account out-of-order fees), dishonour fees, exceeding credit limit fees and late payment fees.
“The case against the bank is based on the principle of penalties. It is unlawful for any business to charge a penalty fee for a default or breach of terms which is out of kilter with the actual cost of the transaction,” Mr Hardwick said.
“The legal system in New Zealand recognises that businesses such as banks can’t charge more than the actual cost otherwise it’s deemed to be unlawful and must be repaid.”
Last week the Australian Federal Court ruled that the ANZ had been illegally imposing penalties for late payments on credit cards in Australia.
The NZ class action is being provided on a no win, no fee basis and is being funded by Litigation Lending Services.
Westpac, BNZ and ASB customers must register at www.fairplayonfees.co.nz by 11pm on Thursday, 27 February, 2014 to confirm their inclusion in the case.