Class Action Lawsuits In Australia

Posted on the February 8th, 2017 under Friends by Jamie Grant

Australian law has seen a total of 329 class actions brought before the courts since an amendment to The Federal Court Act Australia was made in 1992 effectively allowing this form of litigation. There have been some very large class action lawsuits in Australia since that time. The size of class actions was the very reason that the legislation was made in the initial instance. British courts could become overwhelmed by many similar individual lawsuits and the parliament in the 18th century recognized this as an issue and instituted group litigation.

However it was in the United States in 1833 when the supreme court declared that individual litigants did not have to be present for a group litigation or to proceed did large lawsuits become practicable under the new moniker of representative litigation.

By 1966 large litigation actions were becoming commonplace, with environmentalists, civil rights activists and consumer groups made full use of the group litigation laws to bring multinational corporations to court and face accusations of negligence and wrong doing that affected many everyday people.

In Australia class actions are still be used to bring the practice of large organisations under scrutiny. In a recent case IMP Australia initiated over 10 class against the major banks of Australia including the Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac and NAB.



The grounds for the law suits was the allegation that Australian banks have routinely charged Australian consumers up to $45AU for late fees on account debits. IMP Australia alleges on the behalf of thousands of Australian consumers that 400 million dollars were syphoned from average Australians illegitimately. The power of a class action is clearly evident in this example. A single overdue fee, or even a few is simply not sufficient to go to the expense of engaging a litigation lawyer. However when you look at thousands of litigants with millions of dollars in fees then a class action becomes viable. In 2014 the Federal court awarded the case to the plaintiff, saying that the late fees were “extravagant, exorbitant, and unconscionable” and cited that on average processing a late payment cost the bank approximately 50 cents. The ANZ appealed the decision and it was over turned at a full sitting of the High Court.

The failure of this class action raised some concerns about the legitimacy of class actions in Australia.

The ruling certainly protected the interest of big banks and gave the average Australian consumer nowhere to go to redress late fees charged on accounts. However class actions are far from defunct. The ruling against Ausnet energy over the Black Saturday bushfires was the largest in the history of Australian Class actions.

Class actions are the only way that average Australians have the chance to act in a concerted fashion against large organisations that infringe their rights. Negligence on the part of Ausnet energy caused the death of 119 people in the Kilmore East Black Saturday bushfires and caused an estimated 4.4 Billion in damages. In fairness perhaps Ausnet got off lightly, for although it is a legal person, that a company is constituted as under law, a real person would have been charged for the deaths of those poor unfortunates caught in the blaze.

Having the provision in law to instigate class actions on the behalf of hundreds if not thousands of plaintiffs is an essential part of the Australian legal system. The checks and balances between corporate power and consumer rights is one that sometimes requires to use of large class actions to bring corporate powers to accountability.

If you believe that you have been the victim of a large corporation and wish to pursue the matter with one of our compensation law specialists please contact us here: Malfeasance Attorneys

Class Action Lawsuits In Australia
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Class Action Lawsuits In Australia
The grounds for the law suits was the allegation that Australian banks have routinely charged Australian consumers up to $45AU for late fees on account debits.

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