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Australia fines lender ANZ $9.6 million for misleading customers over funds

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian is reflected in the window of a branch of ANZ in central Sydney, Australia

(Reuters) -Australia's corporate regulator said on Tuesday the federal court has ordered ANZ Group Holdings to pay a penalty of A$15 million ($9.63 million) for misleading customers about funds available in certain credit card accounts.

The Australian lender falsely indicated to customers that they could avail cash advance from funds stated to be their 'Available Funds' without incurring fees and interest, according to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC).

The error resulted in customers being charged with thousands of dollars in fees while the average remediation paid was around $45 per affected account.

"Many ANZ customers relied on the account information displayed by the bank and were charged fees that were inconsistent with that information," said ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court.

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So far, the country's fourth-largest bank has provided remediation payments of more than A$8.3 million to about 186,000 accounts that were charged with fees and interest between May 2016 and November 2018.

"The court found ANZ breached the ASIC Act and the National Consumer Credit Protection Act," the regulator said.

In a separate statement, the lender acknowledged the breach and agreed to further remediation for the period from November 2018 to September 2021.

"ANZ accepts responsibility for what has occurred and apologises to its customers, and has addressed the issues that gave rise to the contraventions," the lender said.

($1 = 1.5576 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Himanshi Akhand and Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)