In February, the Federal Court ruled that late payment fees charged by ANZ were “extravagant, exorbitant and unconscionable.” A full Federal Court overturned that ruling on Wednesday morning. Justice Michelle Gordon found no relationship between the $35 late fee and the 50c cost to the bank in the February ruling. But a full Federal Court has now ruled that those fees are reasonable. Legal firm Maurice Blackburn, representing 43,500 ANZ customers in the class action lawsuit, said it would seek to appeal the decision to the High Court. “It is perhaps appropriate that Australia's largest consumer class action will ultimately be decided by Australia's highest court, and as a result of today's decision, that's where we're headed,” said Andrew Watson, head of class actions for the firm.
The landmark case was seen as a potential industry changer, as many large banking institutions have received flack for charging high late fees. The case against ANZ is viewed as a test case for other class action lawsuits against banks such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac and National Australia Bank. “Because of the way we've instituted these proceedings, every banking customer of every one of the banks we've sued, who's ever paid a late payment fee is covered by the case,” Mr. Watson said. So far, approximately 180,000 customers have signed up for potential lawsuits against these companies. Four other types of fees were initial ruled illegal although the most recent court decision rules them as legitimate. Maurice Blackburn said it would be appealing the key parts of the recent decision, mainly the honour fees, dishonour fees and over-limited fees.