ANZ lending giant wins appeal in credit card fees case
One of Australia's biggest lenders, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), has won an appeal against a landmark court ruling that some of its fees for late payments were unfair.
The class action suit, one of the largest in Australia, began in 2010.
Some 43,500 customers claimed the lending giant had charged them "exorbitant fees".
In February 2014, Australia's Federal Court found in partial favour of the customers - a ruling now overturned.
Last year's initial ruling had said that some credit card fees were "extravagant, exorbitant and unconscionable", but also that some other fees the lender had charged were reasonable.
That 2014 ruling meant ANZ would have been liable for a huge financial payout. However, in a unanimous move, the federal court on Wednesday overturned the earlier decision.
"Our long-standing position has been these fees were lawful and we're pleased this has been vindicated by the Full Federal Court," said ANZ's chief executive for Australia, Mark Whelan.
"We were particularly pleased the court found there was no dishonesty on ANZ's part and these avoidable fees were fairly and fully disclosed and there was no lack of good faith by ANZ."
The ANZ class action has been funded by IMF Bentham on a no-win no-fee basis, while law firm Maurice Blackburn has been representing the plaintiffs.
IMF Bentham, one of the world's oldest litigation funders, said it was likely an appeal would now be launched in Australia's High Court.
Maurice Blackburn's head of class actions, Andrew Watson, said via a statement that legal advisors "would be reviewing the judgement with a view to making application for special leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia".
"There is a public interest in having these issues resolved by Australia's highest court," Mr Watson said.
ANZ was the first of eight major lenders to go to court as part of a case begun in 2010 involving more than 185,000 customers. The banks involved in the broader class action suit include Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Citibank.