Judge rebukes ANZ over fees class action
A FEDERAL Court judge has reprimanded ANZ Banking Group Ltd after it claimed it needed 15 months to prepare its defence against a $ 50 million class action over customer fees.
Justice Michelle Gordon accused the bank of being uncooperative and causing expensive delays that would cost millions of dollars.
The b a nk’ s l a wyer Al a n Archibald QC said its accountant, Will Inglis from Deloitte, indicated he needed that much time for a forensic examination of the bank’s ‘‘ exception fees’’.
Mr Archibald admitted in the Melbourne court yesterday ANZ’s penalties for overdrawn accounts were not based on any calculation of recovery costs.
Class action lawyers Maurice B l a c k b u r n a r e c l a i m i n g around $ 50 million for 27,199 customers over alleged fee gouging, including dishonour fees on bank accounts, over limit and late payment fees.
A resolution of the class action would be more than two years away if Mr Ingliss’ investigation went ahead.
‘‘ There is still a customer relationship with, and duty to, your customers, some of whom are running the litigation,’’ Justice Gordon said.
‘‘ There has been no positive submission, nothing proffered and no response by the ANZ Bank relevant to this delay.
‘‘ This is not the way of modern litigation. You are supposed to work out how to do things expeditiously with an obligation to the court to find a way that does not cost millions of dollars and slow it down for two years.’’
However, Mr Archibald said the bank’s exception fees had never been investigated before and this was the reason for the time needed.
‘‘ The bank is entitled to resist the case by means it chooses,’’ he told the court.
Lawyer for the class action, Justin Gleeson SC, accused the bank of effectively admitting it had ‘‘ made up’’ the cost of a dishonour fee – $ 30 to $ 50.