Watchdog sues ANZ for allegedly overstating account balances

ANZ Bank has been accused of charging some credit card customers thousands of dollars in fees and interest after allegedly misleading them about the balances in their accounts.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said in a statement today it was taking legal action against the bank in the Federal Court.

ASIC will allege that about 165,000 ANZ customers were charged cash advance fees and interest between 2016 and 2018 for withdrawing or transferring money from their credit card accounts based on an incorrect account balance.

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When making earlier branch closures, ANZ claimed more and more customers were moving online and did not need regular in-branch banking.

And the problems were still happening as the bank had so far failed to fix the problem, the financial watchdog claimed.

In response to the allegations, ANZ said it was considering the matters raised by ASIC and would not be providing further comment given the matter was now before the court.

ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said in the statement the bank had been "misleading" and "deceptive" in its conduct.

"We are concerned that, over a long period of time, ANZ overstated the available funds and balances on credit card accounts, and nonetheless charged fees and interest to customers who relied on this information when making withdrawals," Court said.

"This alleged misconduct is the result of system errors within ANZ and a lack of effort to comprehensively fix these issues. 

"We say that ANZ has been aware of the unlawful charging since at least 2018 and the problem is still occurring today."

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ANZ has so far paid out more than $10 million to customers who were affected up until 17 November 2018.

ASIC is seeking orders from the court that customers who have been wrongly charged since 2018 also be compensated.

The watchdog is also calling on the court to dish out pecuniary penalties.

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