18 Jun 2013

ANZ first to be targeted in fees case

10:42 pm on 18 June 2013

Some 11,000 ANZ bank customers are bringing an action to claim back what they say are exorbitant bank fees. Lawyers leading the action say it will be the biggest litigation case in New Zealand history.

The action is being led by litigation lawyer Andrew Hooker and Australian-based law firm Slater and Gordon.

Mr Hooker said on Tuesday that 25,000 bank customers in total have signed up to claim back millions of dollars in overdraft, credit card and dishonour payment fees from several banks.

He said fees can be as much as $20 a time when the cost to the bank is only a few cents, and is lodging papers at court next week.

Lawyers estimate that over the past six years, as much as $250 million in unfair fees has been charged to ANZ-National customers.

ANZ said on Tuesday it would vigourously defend what it called unnecessary and unfortunate legal action.

A managing director, Kerri Thompson, said ANZ is very upfront about its fees. She said they are avoidable and the vast majority of customers do not pay them.

Ms Thompson believed the court action is unnecessary, unfortunate and customers may be subjected to a long, arduous legal process with no guaranteed outcome.

The New Zealand Bankers' Association says fees of this nature are usually avoidable and customers who are worried should talk to their bank to make sure they have the account that suits their needs.

Chief executive Kirk Hope said banks are very clear about what fees are charged and the vast majority of customers do not incur them.

The Fair Play on Fees group was launched in March this year to fight excessive bank fees. It claims customers are charged on average $15 every time they overdraw their accounts, pay their credit card late or bounce a cheque.

The group believes up to 1 million people in New Zealand could be eligible to claim excessive default fees, estimated to be about $1 billion over the past six years.