On 21 February 2019, Maurice Blackburn commenced a class action against Westpac on behalf of persons who entered into certain Westpac branded loans between 1 January 2011 and 17 February 2018.
The claim alleged that Westpac failed to comply with its responsible lending obligations in respect of these loans, and that customers suffered, or were likely to suffer, loss. The class action was commenced by Mr and Mrs Tate.
Important update: class action discontinued
In August and September 2020, we emailed people who had registered with Maurice Blackburn notifying them that the Tates had instructed us to make an application to the Court to discontinue the class action.
Our correspondence informed people that if anyone was interested in being heard by the Court in order to oppose the discontinuance, they could contact either Maurice Blackburn or the Court by particular dates. Nobody approached Maurice Blackburn or the Court seeking to be heard by the Court to oppose the discontinuance.
On Tuesday, 22 September 2020, Justice Middleton of the Federal Court of Australia heard and approved the discontinuance application to end the class action. This means that the Westpac Responsible Lending Class Action is now finished.
What this means for you
You are not required to do anything. However, it is important that you understand the following things:
- the discontinuance does not affect your rights to pursue a claim against Westpac;
- there are time periods in which people with claims must commence proceedings. If you were a group member in the class action, the time period in which you had to commence a claim against Westpac for the conduct alleged in the class action was “paused” when the Tates commenced the class action on 21 February 2019. Time starts to run again from 22 September 2020.
In other words, if you were a group member, (a) you have not lost your legal right to make a claim against Westpac, and (b) you have gained more time in which to commence a claim. If you think that you have a claim then you should get legal advice soon.
In general terms, the time limit for bringing a claim against Westpac is 6 years from when you first suffered loss as a result of Westpac’s alleged contraventions of the legislation. This can be a complex question and you should get legal advice about it, and to determine if you were a group member in the class action. Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with this advice. If you are seeking legal advice you can refer to the pleadings (Further Amended Statement of Claim).
If you need assistance with your Westpac loan/s, we recommend you contact either:
- Maurice Blackburn’s Response Centre on 1800 614 451 to see if another Maurice Blackburn department can assist;
- your State or Territory’s law society to find a referral to a solicitor;
- your closest State or Territory community legal centre to seek free legal advice (see https://clcs.org.au/findlegalhelp);
- your closest State or Territory financial counsellor to seek free financial advice (call 1800 007 007 or see https://ndh.org.au/);
- the Australian Financial Complaints Authority to make a complaint (call 1800 931 678 or see https://afca.org.au/); or
- if you are in NSW, Law Access: (https://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/).
Background to class action discontinuance
Westpac successful on appeal in the ASIC Proceeding
In 2018, ASIC sued Westpac alleging that the bank breached certain responsible lending obligations under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth) (ASIC Proceeding). The ASIC Proceeding was one of the reasons why the Tates instructed Maurice Blackburn to investigate and commence the class action. Justice Perram found in favour of Westpac in August 2019. ASIC appealed to the Full Federal Court in February 2020 but on 26 June 2020, the Full Federal Court also found that Westpac was successful. ASIC decided not to lodge a further appeal to the High Court.
If you would like further information about the ASIC Proceeding, here are some links:
What this meant for the class action
The class action was funded by a third-party litigation funder, Harbour Fund IV, L.P (Harbour). Harbour paid significant amounts for the Tates’ legal costs. Harbour also paid the Tates’ “security for costs”. This money was paid into an account held by the Court in the early stages of the class action. If the class action had continued, further large amounts of money would have been required to be paid into Court at the request of Westpac. The money is “security” to cover Westpac’s costs in the event that Westpac was to win the class action.
In light of Westpac’s success in the ASIC Proceeding and ASIC’s decision not to lodge a further appeal, the prospects of success in the class action were impacted and Harbour decided not to continue to fund the class action, which included not providing further “security” payments on behalf of the Tates.
The Tates could not afford to pursue the case without the backing of Harbour and as a result, they have instructed us to apply to the Court for an order allowing them to discontinue the class action. As noted above, the Court hearing took place on 22 September 2020, with Justice Middleton of the Federal Court of Australia approving the discontinuance. This means that the Westpac Responsible Lending Class Action is now finished.