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Current as of 29/05/17 07:40PM NZST

ANZ Australian court victory won't deter NZ litigants, Hooker says

By Jonathan Underhill

Lawyer Andrew Hooker outside the High Court in Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
Lawyer Andrew Hooker outside the High Court in Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

Australia's High Court has dismissed an appeal in a class action suit against fees charged by ANZ Bank but the ruling won't necessarily derail a similar representative action over bank fees in New Zealand that were put on hold pending the outcome.

"It's not going to cause us to throw in the towel," said Andrew Hooker, one of the lawyers representing the Fair Play on Fees litigation group, which launched a case against ANZ New Zealand in June 2013 and against Kiwibank in November of that year.

The group, which has attracted almost 40,000 people, says Kiwis have incurred about $1 billion in "exception fees" imposed when their account goes into unexpected overdraft, they exceed their credit card limit or make a late payment.

Australia's highest court ruled in favour of ANZ Bank, saying it was entitled to charge late payment fees on credit card accounts and such fees didn't amount to unconscionable conduct.

The bank customers in the class action went to the High Court after the Federal Court last year overturned a 2014 ruling that the fees were illegal.

The High Court judgment signals the end of a six-year legal battle between ANZ Bank and some 43,000 customers backed by litigation funder IMF Bentham and puts a question mark over class action suits against other banks across the Tasman that were put on hold pending the outcome of the appeals.

In New Zealand, Fair Play on Fees would be seeking a conference with a judge in the next month or so with the aim of getting a timetable for a trial, Hooker said.

"It would have been nice if the Aussies had won" but the Australian judgment "isn't necessarily one a New Zealand court would agree with," he said.

Still, the group's QCs were studying the judgment and considering its implications, he said.

The other backers of the Fair Play on Fees group are Australian specialist class action firm Slater & Gordon and Litigation Lending Services, a litigation funding firm.

- BusinessDesk

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