Australia court dismisses customer fees lawsuit against CBA

FILE PHOTO: An office building with Commonwealth Bank logo is seen in Sydney

(Reuters) -The Australian Federal Court has dismissed proceedings initiated by the country’s securities regulator against top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia over alleged incorrect charging of monthly fees to customers, the regulator said on Tuesday.

Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) had alleged that between June 2010 and September 2019, CBA incorrectly charged about A$55 million ($36.86 million) in monthly fees to nearly a million customers and over 800,000 accounts, despite their entitlement to fee waivers under a contract.

The court, however, found that the bank had not breached its general obligation to ensure that financial services were provided efficiently.

The court found that CBA’s terms and conditions acknowledged that sometimes the bank “can get things wrong, and when this happens” the bank is “determined to make them right again”, ASIC said, citing the judgement.

ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said the regulator “pursued this case because we believed CBA did not have robust compliance systems to ensure customers were being correctly charged”.

It added that as of Sept. 13, 2021, CBA had paid about A$64 million in remediation to almost one million customers who were overcharged, but clarified that some customers had yet to be paid.

CBA in a statement acknowledged the court order as well as “errors” in charging monthly account fees to some customers.

“We confirm that CBA has completed the customer remediation program in relation to the issues in the proceedings,” the bank said.

ASIC did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for clarification on the bank’s outstanding payments to some customers.

In September, another ASIC proceeding against CBA over allegations of improperly collecting commissions was dismissed by the federal court, dealing a blow to consumer advocates seeking tougher regulations.

($1 = 1.4923 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Dhanya Ann Thoppil)