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AUSTRALIA: Banking Giant Westpac Fined $80.6M for Customer Overcharge

Australian banking giant Westpac has agreed to pay A$113 million ($80.6 million) in penalties after admitting to breaking the law by treating customers poorly, including charging fees to dead people.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Australia’s corporate watchdog, said that Westpac needed to urgently improve its “poor compliance culture”.

Investigation had found that Westpac charged USD 7 million to more than 11,000 dead customers over the period of 10 years.

“The conduct and breaches alleged in these proceedings caused widespread consumer harm and ranged across Westpac’s everyday banking, financial advice, superannuation and insurance businesses,” ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said.

The regulator also said Westpac distributed duplicate insurance policies to more than 7,000 customers, causing customers to unnecessarily pay for two, or more, policies.

It also estimated that at least 25,000 customers were charged more than $5m in fees that had not been disclosed adequately.

ASIC said Westpac had admitted the allegations filed in the federal court and will also hand $57m of compensation to its customers.

The Royal Commission – Australia’s highest form of public inquiry – spent 12 months investigating wrongdoing by some of the country’s biggest institutions.

It came after a decade of scandals that shook confidence in Australia’s largest industry.