Regional families and businesses have ramped up the fight against unfair bank fees with a claim lodged this week to include St George Bank and Bank SA in the nation's biggest series of class actions, on behalf of more than 2,500 people from regional NSW.
In Tamworth today, Senior Associate at Maurice BlackburnPaul Gillett said more than 40 per cent of the new claimants in NSW are from regional areas and there is potential for many more regional residents and businesses to still join the actions and reclaim their money.
"These class actions against unfair bank charges are the largest in Australia's history - $216 million for fees charged against 160,500 customers from seven banks - and there's every chance it will continue growing," Mr Gillett said.
"There are families and businesses in every corner of the country that have had enough of unfair bank fees, including 15 in Tamworth alone, and Maurice Blackburn wants to help them get their money back.
"We think Tamworth people may actually be under-represented, but the good news is that it's very easy to sign up to get your money back and people still have time to join the action.
"Regional Australians are sick of the banks throwing their weight around and taking them for granted and charging outrageous fees, whilst happily reaping record profits. This is a chance for people everywhere to fight back."
Tamworth local and small business owner Paul Adnett says he is keen to send a message to banks such as St George that their unfair fees can have devastating effects on regional businesses and families.
"I'm tired of the big banks and corporations unfairly making billions of dollars out of struggling small businesses like mine, when I'm working more than 80 hours a week just to stay afloat," Mr Adnett said.
"I'd like to have my money back - the big picture is I want big corporates to know that it's my money, and I think they forget it's my money.
"The fees snowball again and again - to the point where people are struggling to stay afloat. This has been one of the great stresses of small businesses in this area and probably across regional NSW.
"I'd encourage people throughout Tamworth and all regional areas to seriously consider standing up to the banks with the rest of us and getting your money back. It costs you nothing to register and it's an easy process."
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 at www.financialredress.com.au.
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
Estimated claim size
Range of fees charged
$20 - $45
$20 - $45
$7 - $50
$20 - $35
$25 - $60
$20 - $45
$30 - $50
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