MORE than 38,000 ANZ customers have taken the bank to court in what is believed to be the largest consumer class action in Australian history.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn is taking the action on behalf of ANZ customers affected by the bank's unfair bank and credit card fees, which they argue are exorbitant.
The legal proceedings, which started in the Federal Court in Melbourne today, is set to examine whether ANZ fees are fair, or whether they are excessive, and therefore illegal.
Maurice Blackburn head of class actions Andrew Watson said the fees are not an accurate reflection of the costs faced by banks when customers are caught out.
"We have currently filed against eight major lending institutions, starting with ANZ, and if we are successful against ANZ then the same principles will be highly influential upon those other cases," he said.
"It is clearly evident from this case that the class action regime in Australia is the only genuinely effective vehicles to offer commercial redress to people that are subjected to corporate wrongdoing in this way.
"This case will mean more than 185,000 Australians will be looking to recover more than $240 million in unfair fees that were charged by the banks over a six-year period."
Mr Watson said the amount ANZ charges for honour, dishonour, late payment and over-limit fees are exorbitant, unfair penalties rather than fees for services.
"We have already seen many of the banks in question, including ANZ, drastically reduce or totally abolish these fees, and the High Court of Australia has ruled that such fees may be penalties," he said.
"Our case is strong."
The hearing before Justice Michelle Gordon is expected to take three weeks.
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