NAB taken to court for fees for no service

ASIC has commenced civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court against NAB and is seeking findings of several thousand contraventions of the ASIC Act and the Corporations Act.

In a statement, ASIC alleged that from December 2013 to February 2019, NAB:

  • engaged in fees for no service conduct by failing to provide ongoing financial planning services to a large number of customers while charging fees to those customers;
  • failed to issue, or issued defective, fee disclosure statements (FDSs). ASIC alleges that the defective FDSs contained false or misleading representations in that they did not accurately describe the fees the customer paid and/or the services the customer actually received. The provision of the defective or out-of-time FDSs terminated the ongoing fee arrangements between NAB and its customers and it is ASIC’s case that consequently NAB was not lawfully entitled to continue to charge the fees;
  • failed to establish and maintain compliance systems and processes to detect and prevent these failures; and
  • contravened its overarching obligations as an Australian Financial Services Licence holder to act efficiently, honestly and fairly.

ASIC noted that the maximum civil penalty for contraventions alleged against NAB are:

  • $250,000 per contravention for breaches of s962P (charging ongoing fees after the termination of an ongoing fee arrangement) and s962S (failing to provide a timely FDS);
  • $1.7 million to $2.1 million maximum penalty (depending on the time period) per contravention for breaches of s12CB (unconscionable conduct) and s12DB (false or misleading representations).

NAB received more than $650 million in ongoing service fees from 2009 to 2018. NAB has stated that it has provisioned more than $2 billion for fee for nservice remediation across all of its advice licensees.

ASIC also alleged that NAB engaged in unconscionable conduct from at least May 2018 by continuing to charge ongoing service fees to certain customers when it knew that it had not delivered the services and had issued defective FDSs or at least knew that there was a real risk that it had engaged in this conduct. However, NAB did not stop charging fees to its customers until 4 February 2019.

The corporate regulator is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties and compliance orders from the Federal Court to prevent similar contraventions occurring in the future.

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“Fees for no service misconduct has been widespread and is subject to ongoing ASIC regulatory responses including investigations and enforcement actions. This widespread misconduct was examined in some detail by the financial services royal commission,” said ASIC deputy chair Daniel Crennan QC.

“ASIC views these instances of misconduct as systematic failures, unfair to customers including those that are more vulnerable. 

“When the fees for nservice misconduct is coupled with fees disclosure statements inadequacies or failings, customers are potentially placed in a more disadvantageous position.

“The customer may not therefore have been provided with the opportunity to know whether they have received the services for which they have paid or the amount of fees charged to them.”

NAB taken to court for fees for no service
NAB
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Adrian Flores

Adrian Flores

Adrian Flores is a deputy editor at Momentum Media, focusing mainly on banking, wealth management and financial services. He has also written for Public Accountant, Accountants Daily and The CEO Magazine.

You can contact him on [email protected].

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