One News NZ June 25, 2013
A campaign targeting bank penalty fees has filed a lawsuit against ANZ this afternoon in an attempt to give customers an avenue to claim their money back.
The Fair Play on Fees group is seeking to sue New Zealand's registered banks in order to reclaim the exemption fees charged when customers overdraw their accounts or pay credit card bills late.
The group alleges ANZ customers have been charged up to $250 million in unfair fees over the past six years.
Campaign lawyer Andrew Hooker says just over 34,000 people have now registered to take part in the campaign.
The proceedings against the ANZ were filed at the High Court in Auckland at 1pm today and Mr Hooker said he will be will be serving them on the ANZ lawyers "probably tomorrow".
He told ONE News outside the High Court that Fair Play on Fees now has other banks in sight.
"The decision's made. We are filing, we just haven't decided which ones yet. And they will all eventually be defendants," he said.
Support for the campaign is overwhelming, Mr Hooker said.
"My office phone is melting, we're getting emails, I had faxes coming through at one, two, three o'clock this morning, people wanting to join. We've had seven thousand more people join since last Wednesday."
The group has closed the list for the action against ANZ but with leave of the court hopes to be able to join people later, he said.
"With regard to the other banks, get on board, it's happening."
ANZ managing director Kerri Thompson said last week the bank was confident in fighting the lawsuit.
"We have a mathematical back up for our fees and we are comfortable to go through this review and really vigorously defend the fees we've got in place."
Mr Hooker said today's action was an important milestone in the case.
"Many people thought the case would not get enough support.
"Today we are here to say New Zealanders are behind the court action. Kiwis want heavy-handed and punitive behaviour from the banks to stop," he said.
The New Zealand action comes after a similar lawsuit across the Tasman, where Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) is being treated as a test case.
ANZ lost a battle in Australia's High Court last year and is now taking its case to the Federal Court.
Mr Hooker said today that when the High Court of Australia says the law is on the Fair Play group's side "we sit up and listen".
"That's the highest court in Australia and it has ruled that these fees are capable of being a penalty," he said.