The banks war against us has intensified and tonight, the fight back begins.
He may not look like it, but Michael Warden is a modern day revolutionary, a people's champion -- he is launching an attack on our biggest banks. "The politicians aren't doing anything at all, they don't care, they're just getting on the TV and going blah blah blah blah naughty banks, the banks can do whatever they like", Michael said.
From his control room in country Victoria, the single father-of-three has the big end of town in his sights. In a week's time, Michael will unveil his website, ihatemybank.com.au, which will give a united voice to potentially hundreds of thousands of disgruntled customers. "I've always wondered, why is there not a banking customers association, why is there not a body that represents the customers of the bank?" Michael said.
"It will work on the premise that if you owe the bank $1,000 or $100,000 you have a problem; but if you owe the bank $100m, the bank has a problem", Michael said.
The 52 year old is tapping into an explosion of anger, a nation incensed by the Commonwealth Bank's extraordinary rate hike earlier this week. It's the latest low-blow from an industry which considers itself untouchable -- but it didn't bank on movements like this. "If 30,000 customers refused to pay their mortgage this month, what would the banks do? Would it hurt them? Would they start listening?" Michael asked.
Currently, CBA boss, Sir Ralph Norris, is doing all he can to avoid getting the message. He has employed a well known warfare tactic -- retreat. He fled the country before rates went up and is now missing in action, most likely wooing investors in the US.
Of course, he could be at his luxurious $10m island hideaway in New Zealand or at his mutli-million dollar Sydney Harbour front home.
Timing is everything and yesterday Westpac boss, Gail Kelly, proved her's is terrible. She announced a mega profit of $6.35b when we least wanted to hear it..
But never mind, she can kick up her heels in her $8.9m home, complete with world class equestrian facilities.
Meanwhile, ANZ boss, Mike Smith, has been renovating his $9.75 million Melbourne mansion -- it has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a pool and space for 6 cars.
And NAB chief, Cameron Klien, is not to be outdone -- he comes home to his $6m property with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
"We're getting 4000 hits on our website every week. Staff are taking hundreds of calls a day from frankly very aggrieved customers", said James Middleweek, the original fight back crusader.
As the head of Financial Redress, his class action against the banks has 140,000 participants. "140,000 people who probably otherwise would not have been able to do anything, have come together to take on the banks on the penalty fee issue", James said.
He wants banks to repay six years worth of excessive late fees, overdraft charges and over-limit fees.
The action run by legal firm Maurice Blackburn is supported by Get Up and Choice. Six weeks ago the ANZ was the first to feel the pain and others will join it soon enough. "In the ANZ case, over 27,000 customers of ANZ are suing them. The question is do they care about those customers?" James said.
While thousands of CBA mortgage holders are considering jumping ship, many will get stung on the way out being forced to pay hefty exit fees.
But a new wave of banking reforms could put an end to all that -- a ban on exit fees is among a raft of changes being considered by Cabinet in coming weeks. "They should definitely vote with their feet, if they don't feel they're getting a good deal with their current lender", said Mitchell Watson, from Canstar Cannex..
Mitchell says if you do decide to part ways with the big four banks, there's plenty of smaller lenders keen for your business. "There's over 110 lenders in the market, so borrowers are spoilt for choice".
Among the best:
- State Custodians Standard Variable Product, followed by
- Collins Home Loans,
- IMB's Budget Home Loan,
- Newcastle Permanent's Premium Plus package, and
- NAB Tailor Choice Package $250k+
"They have consistently provided good rates, good fee structures and they've also got features in the product which really match or provide value to those rates as well", Mitchell said.
When it comes to credit cards, try:
- The Credit Union of South Australia's Visa Card,
- The Greater Building Society,
- Sydney Credit Union,
- Bankwest's Lite Mastercard, and
- Community First CU.
"What makes these credit cards so attractive is they have a low interest rate, they've also got interest free days -- up to 55 days -- and low annual on-going fees", Mitchell said.
As for Michael and James, they want you to know you have the power to make a difference. "I really think it's time we protested", Michael said.
The website ihatemybank.com.au won't be operational for 1 week.
In the meantime fans can go Michael Warden's face book page:
To contact James Middleweek visit the website at: http://financialredress.com.au/