Bank Fees

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

They're bank imposed penalties that leave your account a lot lighter. Penalty fees which range from five to forty dollars.

Campaigner James Middleweek, not only claims they're unfair he believes its pure profiteering. "These charges are meant to reflect the actual cost that the bank incurred, we struggle to see how it could be more than cents or a few dollars at a time" Here at the Perth HQ of his company, Financial Redress, he's challenging the legality of hefty bank penalties." It's very difficult to see how nearly all of that isn't pure profit for the banks"

When the Reserve Bank revealed we paid more than a billion dollars in penalty fees last year alone it put pressure on banks across the country to stop fee gouging. National Australia Bank is the first of the big four to abolish penalty fees and the customer reward, has rewarded their bottom line, yesterday announcing a profit of four point six billion dollars. Meanwhile here in WA, the Bank that lives here hasn't shown its customers the same generosity. James says "as it happens with Bankwest their fees are still excessive"

A Bankwest customer for forty five years Ann Stewert estimates she's paid thousands in these fees, "previously they were charging me $50 for a dishonour fee and I have four of them on this page alone, amounting to $200" A home business, Ann's accounts are sometimes caught short, when her customers pay late "for being a loyal customer you would think there would be something ... maybe just a bit of understanding"

James Middleweek says "sometimes people will be a second late, or a minute late or a day late with a credit card payment or some money comes into their account and they get hit with a fee just for a timing difference"

So, let's look at the charges, and how the banks compare?

Late fees on your credit card vary from $35 at BankWest to $5 at National.

Over limit fees range from forty dollars to no charge at NAB.

Banking honour fees vary from twenty seven dollars down to no cost, at NAB.

Dishonour fees range from forty dollars depending on the type of account, to again no charge at NAB.

Of the banks surveyed, bankwest's charges are within the top four for each type of penalty

In this case, they charge three times as much as the Commonwealth despite the fact the Commonwealth owns the WA based bank.

So we asked Commonwealth, why don't they bring their subsidiary into line, they told us Bankwest

"Sets its (own) pricing for its products and service - not Commonwealth Bank"

Bankwest told us their "fees are competitive with the broader market" and "are fair and reasonable and cover costs".

For years now long suffering customers have had to cop it sweet, after all what chance do you the little guy have against the big boys, well your not alone any longer, across the country people are joining forces, and they're fighting the big banks together.

James says "by far and away the largest class action in Australian legal history" So far, more than one hundred and forty thousand people have signed up, to sue their banks. "Launched ANZ a couple of months ago and that concerned 27 000 customers in that case"

The court action comes as ANZ today announced a record profit of five point one billion dollars. Ann is just one of the eight thousand Bankwest accounts registered in the fight and with thousands more getting on board banks are preparing for a billion dollar battle. James says "1.2 billion dollars a year ... our class action goes back 6 years, theoretically that is a 6 to 7 billion dollar sum that the banks have taken from customers"

For information about the class action go to:

www.financialredress.com.au