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LENDING & CREDIT | Cesar Tordesillas, Australia

Australian banks shift more fees to small businesses

A Reserve of Australia report showed that households paid 7 percent less bankfees, but businesses paid 5.5 percent more.

The report indicated that Australian banks charged $11.3 billion in fee revenue, up by $100 million from theprevious year.

From that amount, $4 billion came from households, down from $4.3 billion the year before.

Fees charged on deposit accounts fell 13.3 per cent, providing the biggest savings to households.

This category included a 42 per cent fall in "exception fees", which include charges for automatic debits wherethere are insufficient funds in accounts along with similar penalties. There was also an 11.3 per cent drop inhome-loan fees, driven by the ban on exit fees and lower service fees on home loans.

But credit card fees continued to increase, up 4 percent, with households paying $1.3 billion, a jump of $50 million.

The Australian Bankers' Association said most fees were paid by "wealthier households" - which meant low-income earners were paying less than average.

The RBA also reported that businesses paid a hefty $7.3 billion in bank fees, up from $6.9 billion previously.

The Council of Small Business Australia said the higher fees levied on businesses added to conditions that were pushing some small businesses to the brink.

"We've got wages going up, rents going up, power going up and bank fees going up - it makes it very difficult,"
said the council's executive director, Peter Strong."Of course there is the extra cost side of it, which as a small business they have to pass on to the customer, but there is also the extra administration time involved," he added.

ABA chief Steven Muchenberg said small businesses paid 56 per cent of bank fees and large companies 44 percent.

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