Australia fines lender NAB $1.4 million for wrongfully charging fees


(Reuters) -The Australian Federal Court has fined the country’s second-biggest lender National Australia Bank (NAB) <NAB.AX> a penalty of A$2.1 million ($1.4 million) for wrongfully charging customers periodic payment fees, the securities regulator said on Friday.

Between January 2017 and July 2018, National Australia Bank continued to charge its customers periodic payment fees for transferring money despite knowing it had no contractual entitlement to do so, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) said.

The bank wrongfully charged 2,888 personal banking customers and 513 business clients payment fees totalling A$139,845 on 74,593 occasions, the regulator added.

“If systems have let customers down, we expect all financial institutions, especially our banks, to act quickly to reduce consumer harm,” ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said.

NAB in an email to Reuters acknowledged “some customers were incorrectly charged for periodical payment fees several years ago,” adding that it had completed a remediation program and repaid more than A$8.3 million to affected customers.

Over the years, Australian regulators fined a slew of companies over breaches and non-compliance issues, with the “Big Four” banks penalised the heaviest after a Royal Commission into the sector exposed widespread misconduct.

Shares of NAB were trading 0.7% lower as of 0221 GMT after declining as much as 1.3% earlier in the day.

($1 = 1.5588 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Ayushman Ojha in Bengaluru; Editing by Janane Venkatraman and Dhanya Ann Thoppil)

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