Tuesday, 11 February 2020 11:18

Westpac NZ admits disclosure breach, agrees to pay customers $3.7 million Featured

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Westpac Bank has signed a settlement agreement with the New Zealand consumer watchdog, The Commerce Commission, admitting it breached the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003, and agreeing to make payments to customers totalling $3.7 million.

As reported by iTWire in August last year, Westpac New Zealand had agreed to refund 93,000 customers overcharged $7 million for services and that it would take “all reasonable steps to reach impacted customers - and also improve its systems and start a wider review to ensure customers were receiving appropriate discounts”.

Westpac had self-reported the issue to the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) and the Commerce Commission in December 2017 and identified more impacted customers over the following 12 months.

Announcing the settlement agreement on Tuesday, the Commerce Commission said the bank has “accepted that it breached the law by failing to provide key information to credit card customers before they entered into their contracts”.

“Due to a process error, when Westpac posted credit cards to 19,000 new personal credit card customers between May 2017 and March 2018, it failed to provide the required initial disclosure of their credit terms,” the Commission said.

“The Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act requires lenders to provide important information that helps consumers understand their rights and obligations under their loan before they enter into their loan contract.

“Westpac reported the issue to the Commission in March 2018. The Commission then filed High Court proceedings against the bank in July 2019, seeking a declaration that the bank breached the Act as well as orders for statutory damages and refunds of costs of borrowing. As part of the settlement, Westpac has agreed to admit in court that it breached its legal obligations.

“Westpac will pay at least $3.6 million to customers to whom it failed to provide the required initial disclosure information. Westpac has already written off $100,000 owed by some affected customers.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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