Fees fight targets three more banks

The BNZ has defended itself against a legal claim over penalty fees saying it abolished most of the charges in 2009.

Fair Play on Fees lawyer Andrew Hooker this morning named the BNZ, Westpac and ASB as its latest targets in a lawsuit claiming the banks charge unfair penalty fees.

It has already taken action against the ANZ and Kiwibank.

The fees concerned include honour and dishonour fees for unarranged overdrafts, rejected payments on deposit account, exceeding credit limits and late payment fees.

BNZ director of retail Andy Symons said it was the only bank to abolish most of those fees in 2009 and was the first major New Zealand bank to remove honour and dishonour fees on personal transactions and savings accounts.

"The bank does not charge "customers these fees when there are insufficient funds in an account to meet a direct debit payment or cheque."

BNZ estimated the change had saved its customers around $25 million per annum over the past five years.

Symons said last year the bank had also changed its stance for customers going into unarranged overdraft and only charged a fee if the account was more than $20 overdrawn.

"This has made a big difference for customers who may have accidentally overdrawn their accounts by only a few dollars."

Symons said all its fees were fully disclosed and those being singled out in the case were all avoidable.

Around 5000 BNZ customers have already registered to take part in the court case which can target fees going back six years.

Meanwhile Westpac and ASB have both said they intend to vigorously defend any action that is brought.

"We will review the proceedings if and when they are filed and it is our intention to vigorously defend any action that is brought. We continue to encourage customers with concerns to contact us directly," said a Westpac spokesman.

Customers of Westpac, BNZ and ASB who want to join the action have until 11pm February 27 to register online to confirm their inclusion in the case.

Hooker said he would lodge documents against the three banks on February 28.

- Tamsyn Parker of the NZ Herald 

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