People normally associate “No win no fee lawyers” with ambulance chasers, the kind of legal professional who earns most of their money through other people’s misfortunes, traffic accidents, workplace accidents, and unfair dismissal cases. Not so anymore. Some big names in the law industry are starting to take on large legal battles against some of Australia’s largest corporations, including banks.
The latest trend is for such lawyers to take on legitimate large scale cases, some might perhaps even set some industry precedents and be very helpful to clients in need, and society. More public interest lawyers are what the world needs right now.
In Melbourne, Australia the federal court system and its top lawyers and judges are now much more accessible to hundreds of thousands of people. People can now be represented in class action lawsuits and get their case heard if they chose to for small claims such as fee gouging. Previously it would have been too expensive. When these small claims are made by tens of thousands of people in one case, it adds up to a lot of damages being paid out, even for a big business.
Class action lawyers in legal firms have the power to claim $50 million plus in some cases. In terms of a class action lawsuit against a bank or other large Australian corporate service provider this claim might include fees charged for service, overdue fees and dishonour fees on their accounts.
Some of these fees that banks are known to charge in my experience, 30 plus dollars a piece are in no way justified economically, or practically in my opinion. Since everything is handled by computers these days, there is very little oversight or manual labour into transactions in this day and age. Under Australian law, banks can only charge a fair amount.
A class action suit against one of the big banks would be Australia’s largest ever, solicitors say an estimated 27,000 are willing to be involved in a single case, including individuals and businesses holding about 40,000 personal and business accounts. Legally representing 40000 or more legal entities, imagine the amount of legal fees they will gain off of all these people if they win.
Large corporations are notorious for attempting to draw out legal battles over years until the single party, not able to afford the rising legal fees has no choice but to drop the case, even if they are quite sure it will be decided in their favour. To be fair on all parties in such a case a good judge would likely discuss with both sides of the parties ways in which the case could run as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
If a class action claim was made seeking a refund of unfair fees paid since 2004 plus interest, I wonder if that will be the same pathetically low interest rate I get in my bank account, from memory around 0.01%, and after fees that becomes negative! Some people might even get lucky and receive the true reserve bank interest rate of 6.5% or higher for the real retail rate the banks charge to those in debt to them?
You can now easily bring a case to court for a claim of as little as hundreds of dollars to more than $35000 for businesses. Even though the claim might be small, this kind of legal action is now being funded on a no-win no-fee basis by litigation funders more and more in Australia.
Let’s hope this trend of good will no-win no fee lawyers services continues, as it makes the courts and justice more accessible with no up front charges, and the legal battles result in a win for consumers.