Stung with massive fees on automatic payments over the years, financially-struggling solo parent Lana Cole is urging fellow Northlanders to join a class action against New Zealand's major commercial banks to claim back what she terms "unfair penalty charges".
Ms Cole is among between 800 and 900 Northlanders and more than 25,000 disgruntled bank customers nationwide who've signed up to Fair Play on Fees - a website set up by Auckland-based lawyer Andrew Hooker, Australian consumer law firm Slater and Gordon and Litigation Lending Services.
The three are suing ANZ and have said BNZ, Westpac and ASB, along with state-owned Kiwibank, are also in their sights in a massive class action lawsuit to reclaim fees charged when customers overdraw their accounts, pay credit card bills too late, or bounce a cheque.
ANZ, including its recently rebranded subsidiary National Bank, will be the first target under the lawsuit, with documents to be filed in the High Court at Auckland next week.
Ms Cole has urged those who felt hard done by banks to stick to their rights.
"Banks already make enough money so they don't need to penalise people through unnecessary fees," she said.
She was stung a huge amount of interest and fees for a credit card that she couldn't afford to keep up with payments for as well as dishonouring charges on her ASB account for automatic payment.
"I was charged $20 per automatic payment that could not be made. Some of those bill payments were for $5, $10 or $20 each.
"If I was a few dollars short, this did not come out (automatic payment could not be made) but the bank was still able to take out a $20 fee for each one which is absolutely ridiculous.
"As I did not have access to a computer I was unable to change them to stop the bills trying to come out," Ms Cole said.
At one stage, she had $80 outstanding for four dishonour fees and said banks should allow automatic payments to get through first before pondering upon their charges.
"I had to get a part-time job to supplement my income to pay off the fees I owed to my bank."
Ms Cole said the class action was long overdue and hoped others would join the court action.
Fair Play on Fees lawyer Andrew Hooker said the response from everyday New Zealanders had been overwhelming.
"The message I'm getting is that everyone agrees that the banks have gotten away with these fees for far too long.
"They're excited to finally get an opportunity to do something about it."
He said customers of all the major banks should sign up because cases against them all would be filed.
Those wishing to register can do so at www.fairplayonfees.co.nz