Don’t bank on ac­tion reach­ing High Court

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - JEFF WHAL­LEY

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

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