By Rebecca Howard
July 11 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's Commerce Commission has filed High Court proceedings against Westpac New Zealand.
The commission alleges the bank breached the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 by failing to provide key information it was required to give customers under the law.
“This case is important for clarifying the scope of lender liability to borrowers, in a situation where thousands of customers were not provided with initial disclosure required under the law,” said commission chair Anna Rawlings in a statement.
Westpac reported to the commission in March 2018 it had failed to provide key initial disclosure information to 19,000 personal credit card customers when they first took their credit card between May 2017 and March 2018, the commission said.
"The commission alleges that due to a process error, when Westpac posted new credit cards to some customers, they did not also receive disclosure of the terms of credit," it said.
In emailed response to questions, Westpac said "In March 2018, Westpac NZ discovered that disclosure documents had not been sent to 19,365 new credit card customers. This was a result of an error that occurred during an upgrade to IT systems".
Westpac said corrective disclosure was provided to these customers and "we proactively notified the Commerce Commission. We also refunded fees and interest charges to customers who were in default, and have made changes to make sure this issue is not repeated".
It said it would not be commenting further as the case is before the courts.
The Commerce Commission - which also said it would not be commenting further - said it is seeking a declaration Westpac breached its initial disclosure obligations under the Act and is seeking an order for the return of costs of borrowing to affected borrowers and an order for payment of statutory damages to affected borrowers.
“The law provides for remediation for customers when their lender fails to give disclosure properly and in this case we are asking the Court to determine whether Westpac breached its obligations, and if so, to decide how those statutory remedies should be applied," Rawlings said.