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Court Affirms Overdraft Fees Class Action

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Evansville, INThe Indiana Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court's decision granting class-action status to an excessive overdraft fees lawsuit. The Indiana Court’s decision means the trial for the excessive bank overdraft fees lawsuit against Old National Bank is still scheduled to start October 27.

The lawsuit was filed, according to Evansville Courier & Press (7/27/15), by Steven Kelly, Jon Cook and Rebecca Cook in December 2010, and alleged Old National Bank reordered customer transactions to push consumers into overdraft as a way of increasing profits. In 2014, a circuit court judge approved class-action status for the lawsuit but Old National Bank appealed that decision.

The Indiana Court of Appeals, however, agreed with the class-action status and the Supreme Court decided not to hear arguments from Old National Bank challenging the lower court’s decision. The appeals court did throw out some of the allegations against Old National Bank but allowed the lawsuit and the class-action status to continue.

Banks and credit unions have been under fire for reordering customer transactions to increase profits, a practice that lawsuits allege is illegal and resulted in billions of dollars in profits for financial institutions while penalizing customers up to $35 per overdraft transaction.

Financial institutions are allowed to charge fees for overdraft protection. Critics say the illegal part was the reordering of transactions from highest to lowest to push customers into overdraft more quickly and increase the number of overdraft transactions. So a customer who had $100 in her bank account and made, in this order, purchases of $10, $5, $10, $15, and $90, a chronological order means that she is only charged for one overdraft transaction at $35. But if the order is changed to highest to lowest, her second transaction pushes her into overdraft. She is now charged for four overdraft transactions at $35 each.

Many banks have settled lawsuits alleging their practice of reordering transactions is illegal but other lawsuits are ongoing, with new cases still being filed. In 2012, Citizens Bank agreed to pay $137.5 million to settle a lawsuit concerning reordering of transactions. In 2011, Bank of America agreed to pay more than $400 million to settle allegations brought forth by its customers regarding its overdraft policies.

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