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Hearings begin in class action suit against Australia's largest banks

Hearings in a multi-million dollar class action suit against Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) [corporate website] began Monday before the Federal Court of Australia [official website] in Melbourne. More than 43,000 ANZ customers have accused [AFP report] Australia's third largest bank of charging unconscionable fees, including "dishonor" fees on bank accounts, and over-limit fees and late payment fees on credit cards, ranging from Aus$25 to $35. Estimates put the total amount of fees being contested at $57 million. ANZ is only the first of eight major Australian banks that will face court hearings in what is considered Australia's largest ever consumer class action lawsuit. According to the law firm representing the class, Maurice Blackburn [official website; press release], "more than 170,000 Australians who were charged these unfair fees by the banks have signed up online to be part of the action to redeem their money plus interest, with the claim size now estimated at more than $220million." The class action suit comes following a September 2012 ruling [case information] by the High Court of Australia [official website] allowing consumers to challenge bank fees in addition to credit card fees.

Australian banks are not alone in being accused of charging unconscionable fees to customers. In May a US federal judge reinstated [JURIST report] a USD $203 million penalty against Wells Fargo [corporate website] in a class action suit alleging that the bank affirmatively misled customers and then charged excessive overdraft fees. Rather than processing purchases in a chronological order, as is the common practice, the bank processed its customers' purchases from largest to smallest. In July 2012 JPMorgan Chase [corporate website; JURIST news archive] agreed [JURIST report] to a $100 million settlement in a case alleging that the company increased monthly minimum payments for credit card holders from 2 percent to 5 percent in 2008 and 2009 to profit from higher fees.

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