“FAIR PLAY ON FEES” INVITES ASB TO TELL KIWIS WHY IT IS STANDARD BUSINESS PRACTICE TO CHARGE KIWIS MORE

The lawyer pursuing Kiwi banks on behalf of customers overcharged hundreds of millions in unfair bank fees has called on one of the country’s biggest financial institutions to explain why the head of its Australian parent company justified the overcharging as “standard business practice”.

Ian Narev, who is head of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia – owner of ASB – told a business lunch in Auckland yesterday that it was ”standard business practice” to charge higher default fees in New Zealand than in Australia.

The comment was made in response to Fair Play on Fees comparison of the fees charged by ASB in NZ and CBA in Australia. In New Zealand, ASB customers are charged more than three times the amount charged in Australia when an automatic payment (AP), bill payment or direct debit is declined. An ASB customer in New Zealand is charged a fee of $20 but the same customer of the CBA in Australia is charged $NZD6.25 ($AUD5).

Fair Play on Fees Lawyer Andrew Hooker says Kiwis were entitled to ask ASB how such disparity can be justified as a “standard business practice”.

 “Customers are entitled to know why there is such a vast difference. Surely the costs of the same computer transaction in NZ can’t be three times higher than what it is in Australia. Do computers cost that much more here than in Australia?”

”We understand the bank’s point that there is no reason for fees and charges to be identical between countries but the differences just don’t add up. It is time for ASB to give its customers more information about the costs that go into a making up a default fee”.

Mr Hooker said “Perhaps Mr Narev doesn’t understand what the case is about. If a can of Coke in Australia costs slightly more than in NZ, big deal, if their monthly account keeping fees are slightly higher or lower, then big deal. The issue with these particular fees is that they need to be set with regard to what it actually costs the bank when a customer has insufficient funds to meet an AP. We say that the costs of this occurring are out of all proportion to the fees that they are charging; that’s what makes it an unlawful penalty. It seems that this principle is better understood by Mr Narev’s CBA team in Australia but less well understood by their colleagues across the Tasman”.

New Zealanders can join the action against unfair bank fees by registering at www.fairplayonfees.co.nz.
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013

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