Rania Spooner April 19, 2012
BANKWEST has become the latest target of the largest class action against late payment fees in Australian history, worth $223 million, as lawyers responsible for the action claim the Perth-based
company continues to have some of the highest fees for customers who miss credit card repayments.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers launched proceedings against Bankwest in the Federal Court in Melbourne yesterday, arguing that $10 million in late credit card repayment fees and dishonour fees charged by Bankwest in the past six years should be given back to customers.
It is the latest in a string of actions launched by the same group against Australian banks, which started with a claim against the ANZ in 2010.
In recent months CBA, Westpac, NAB, Citibank, St George and BankSA have also been drawn in, bringing the total claimant pool to more than 170,000 people and the estimated claim size to $223 million.
The lawyers are aiming to retrieve up to $1500 for each of the 6600 Bankwest claimants. About half of the 6600 Bankwest customers who have now signed on to the action were from Western Australia.
Last year a court ruled in favour of Maurice Blackburn's claimants in relation to the pilot ANZ case, finding late fee payments could be considered penalties.
The ruling would mean a bank should claim back only what the late payment has cost them.
Maurice Blackburn senior associate Paul Gillett said the ''height of this price gouging'' was in 2009 when banks charged Australian households $1.3 billion in ''exception'' fees.