Judge re­bukes ANZ over fees class ac­tion

Townsville Bulletin - - Investor -

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.

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