Don’t bank on action reaching High Court
GETTING a class action against ANZ over unfair bank fees into the High Court is not a done deal, say industry insiders, after the Federal Court overturned a previous ruling against the bank.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn, which had filed the case on behalf of 40,000 ANZ customers who would have forced the bank to repay millions in late credit card fees, said it would pursue action in the High Court.
But industry insiders said this might not be easy after the three senior commercial judges decided in the bank’s favour.
It was seen as a test case against the rest of the big four, power companies and even telcos over late fees they charged.
In the judgment yesterday, Chief Justice James Allsop said “there was no dishonesty, there was no trickery or sharp practice” on ANZ’s part.
At the same time, the ASXlisted international litigation fund backing the class action IMF Bentham Australia yesterday told the market that, pending the outcome of the appeal, it would write off about $4 million from intangible assets for its own costs and set aside $1.5 million to cover other costs.
The head of Maurice Blackburn’s class action practice Andrew Watson said the appeal would hinge on consumer protections built into the law.
Consumer group Choice yesterday said the class action had already forced bank fees into the spotlight and reduced the amount Australians paid.
Choice chief Alan Kirkland said before the action in 2009, Australians paid $1.3 billion a year and in 2013 they paid $579 million. “The first bank to raise fees (because of this court victory) would bear the brunt of consumer anger,” he said. BUSINESS P42