Bankwest customers take class action on unfair fees

18 April 2012
Western Australians have joined the country's biggest series of class actions to fight against unfair bank fees, with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers today filing a further claim in the Federal Court against Bankwest on behalf of more than 6,500 customers.

Maurice Blackburn Senior Associate Paul Gillett says the inclusion of Bankwest adds an estimated $10 million in claims to the other class actions against ANZ, CBA, Westpac, Citibank, Bank SA, St George and NAB, taking the claim to over $220 million.

"These class actions against unfair bank charges are the largest in Australia's history - more than $220 million for fees charged against around 170,000 customers from eight banks - and it continues to grow," Mr Gillett said.

There are now more than 20,300 West Australian account holders across all of the unfair bank fees class actions we are running, accounting for around 12 per cent of the total group - and we believe there is potential that more will come forward to get their money back.

"The message from Western Australian families and businesses is loud and clear - they've had enough of unfair bank fees and Maurice Blackburn wants to help them get their money back.

"People are sick of the banks throwing their weight around, taking them for granted and charging outrageous fees, whilst happily reaping record profits. This is a chance for people everywhere to fight back."

The bank fees class actions are being funded by IMF (Australia) Ltd, on a no-win no-fee basis for participants. Registrations are still open through IMF's subsidiary Financial Redress.

Perth-based Managing Director of Financial Redress, James Middleweek, said around half of the new group of claimants are from Western Australia.

"Bankwest has always been at the top end of the exception fee scale. However, with all the pressure to reduce these unfair fees, I'm surprised it still charges up to $45 for a business honour fee, and $30/35 for a credit card over limit or late fee," he said.

"Bankwest is simply taking its customers for a ride."

Perth woman Wendi Kirwan-Elliott said she would have had her credit debts paid off years ago if it wasn't for the unfair fees continuing to build and put pressure on her family.

"This wasn't the bank's money to take - it was my money and I deserve to have it back and so do the thousands of other Australians who just like me weren't aware that the banks are wrong in taking these fees," Ms Kirwan-Elliott said.

"The banks don't seem to realise that just because it may not be a massive amount to them, every dollar counts in our household and when these fees restrict our ability to provide for our children, these fees can push you over the edge."

History

  • 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

Estimated claim size

Bank

Group members

Estimated claim size

Range of fees charged

ANZ

38,000

$50m

$20 - $45

BankSA

1,500

$2m

$20 - $45

Bankwest

6,600

$10m

$10 - $50

Citibank

10,000

$15m

$7 - $50

Commonwealth

45,000

$56m

$20 - $35

NAB

30,000

$38m

$25 - $60

St George

9,000

$14m

$20 - $45

Westpac

30,000

$38m

$30 - $50

TOTAL

170,100

$223m

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General information 

  • Banks charged Australian households (that is, not including businesses) $652 million in exception fees in FY2010, down from $1.3 billion in FY2009 and $1.2 billion in FY2008
  • Banks charged Australian businesses $112 million in exception fees in FY2010, down from $197 million in FY2009 and $209 million in FY2008
  • Banks earned $4.2 billion in fees (all fees, not just exception fees) from households in FY2010, a drop of 16% from the previous year
  • Banks earned $6.9 billion in fees (all fees, not just exception fees) from businesses in FY2010, an increase of 13% from the previous year
  • The big four banks posted a combined profit of $24 billion for FY2011

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