An Australian class action against bank fees grew to include four more institutions Friday, with lawyers saying they are now acting for some 150,000 consumers over claims worth close to US$200 million.
Proceedings against Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Citibank follow the case against excessive customer fees at ANZ, said Andrew Watson, from lawyers Maurice Blackburn.
"These class actions are about bringing fairness to tens of thousands of Australians, from mums and dads to small business owners who have all been hit with exorbitant fees from the major banks," Watson said.
"Just like the ANZ class action launched in September last year, these cases allege fees imposed upon customers for overdrawn accounts, late payments, honour and dishonour charges do not reflect the actual cost to the bank."
Earlier this month a judge presiding over the ANZ class action ruled that several of its penalty fees could be considered unfair to customers, clearing the way for similar actions against other Australian banks.
In her interim ruling, Judge Michelle Gordon found that some charges falling under ANZ's late payment fees schedule were "capable of being characterised as a penalty".
But she cleared the bank over four other classes of fees -- covering over-drawing from accounts and having insufficient funds to make scheduled payments -- in the Federal Court.
ANZ has said the bank will vigorously defend the case.
The latest cases lodged in the Federal Court in Melbourne on Friday are on behalf of 45,000 customers of Commonwealth Bank, 30,000 customers of Westpac, 30,000 customers of NAB, and 10,000 customers of Citibank.
Adding to the 38,000 customers in the ANZ case, proceedings have now been issued for more than 150,000 bank customers, Maurice Blackburn said.
The value of the claims against the five banks total Aus$197 million (US$196 million) -- ranging from Aus$56 million against Commonwealth Bank to Aus$15 million for Citibank.
The Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac and ANZ are Australia's biggest banks and known collectively as "the Big Four".
The class actions are being funded by IMF (Australia) Ltd, on a no win no fee basis.