Bank Action

Reporter: David Richardson 

Bank Customers...are taking aim...locking and loading...and firing. the legal crosshairs now marking 8 major banks in a bold move to recover hundreds of millions in bank fees.

This class action is lining up the banks like dominos. Lawyers first targeting the ANZ in 2010...then roping in the commonwealth, westpac and the national Australia bank. Citibank..st george and bank SA soon fell into the class action... now the 8th...Bankwest...is the latest domino to fall.

"It now brings us to a combined total of 170-thousand people seeking recovery of around 220-million in exception fees." Said Paul Gillett

When this class action began two years ago...38,000 angry customers were suing ANZ. Since then the count has risen rapidly.... customer numbers now making it the largest class action case every mounted in this country...for a massive amount of money - a fight over excessive fees.

"We say that the fees, the exception fees that we are pursuing do not reflect the true cost of the bank of being late on your credit card. we say it cannot be the 20 or 30 dollars you're being slugged with if you're a few days late. surely it's just a matter of sense." Said Paul.

Paul Gillett from law firm Maurice Blackburn is leading this class action... recruiting another 6-thousand Bankwest customers to the cause.

"Australian families, and households and small businesses are sick of the banks taking them for granted." Said Pau.

Wendi Kirwan-Elliott is one of the latest to join the anti-bank fee crusade.

A bank west customer hit with exception fees.

"But I was a bit stunned when I think about it. for $2 maybe over the limit I'm paying $35 and they really don't need to take that amount of money off me." Said Wendi

But the thousands in fees paid by Wendi is a drop in the ocean...

"There's potentially up to 5-billion dollars of unfair fees out there to be claimed." Said James

Australia's largest Litigation funder IMF is backing the class action...

the Managing Director of the IMF subsidiary...Financial Redress...is James Middleweek..

Nicknamed the "bank buster" he claims they had no choice but to target Bankwest..

"Banks used to charge $50 for these type of exception fees. most have cut theirs to somewhere between zero and $15. Bankwest is still charging somewhere between 30 and 45 dollars and that's completely unacceptable." Said James

These fees are the banks major cash cow. In 2000... bank fees totalled 6-and a quarter billion dollars. Five years later...banks had added another 3-biollion to that - in 2009 that figure had jumped to 12.7 billion banks still pulling out 11 billion plus in 2010.

"They're simply taking their loyal customers for a ride." Said James

A ride that is becoming very bumpy for Australia's banks... unhappy at being taken before the courts...

Former bank insider Adrian Bradley believes the class action...and massive client anger...is having an effect...

"They don't like negative publicity, they don't like something challenging their brand, and no big business does and you can accept that. But the banks tend to take this a lot more seriously than a lot of businesses I have been in." Said Adrian

8 are now in the legal crosshairs...but the class action is set to be widened even further...

another 4 unnamed banks...and at least two credit card companies on the IMF hit list...all bound for the federal court..."Treat your customers fairly when it comes to fees and if you're still charring 30 or 40 dollars for these types of fees you better start cutting them." Said James

For more information or join the class action

www.financialredress.com.au