by Alan Thornhill
The Federal Court has ruled that late payment fees, charged by the ANZ bank, might be considered excessive – and therefore illegal.
The judge, Justice Michelle Gordon, also raised doubts about three other fees, that the bank charges.
However, the court also said the fees the bank charges for overdrawn accounts and its dishonour fees – among others – are valid.
This was an interim ruling.
The case, involving some 34,000 ANZ customers, will return to court next year.
A Perth based company, IMF, took the case to court.
Its head, Hugh McLernon said the judge had ruled that “late payment fees which have been charged by all the banks are potentially a penalty and therefore void.”
The ANZ, declared, though, that it would “continue to defend class action at main trial in 2012 .
It said the court had ruled in its favour in four of the five fee types challenged.
The ANZ said it had successfully argued that Honour Fees, Dishonour Fees, Overlimit Fees and Non- payment Fees could not be regarded as penalties.
However, the bank said, the Court had found that one fee – the Late Payment Fee – was capable of being characterised as a penalty.
“But whether it is in fact a penalty will be examined in the main trial in 2012,” the bank said.
Other banks will be studying the case closely.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Saturday May 25
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