Class action claims First Mid-Illinois charged fees targeting low-income customers

Andrea Dearden Nov. 14, 2011, 4:31am


A Mattoon woman has filed a class action claim against an Illinois bank she claims has been charging excessive overdraft fees.

Deanna Williamson, on behalf of herself and several others, filed the lawsuit Oct. 20 in Madison County Circuit Court against First Mid-Illinois Bankshares Inc. and First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust.

According to the complaint, First Mid-Illinois Bankshares and First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust charged an overdraft fee of $25 for every transaction made while a customer's account was overdrawn. The banks also allegedly charged some account holders the same fee even when their account was not overdrawn at the time of the transaction.

Williamson says that if the debit card would have simply been declined at the time of the purchase or if the bank had provided a warning that a charge would be assessed if funds were insufficient, she could have chosen an alternative form of payment and avoided the overdraft fee altogether. Williamson alleges these charges and the bank's policy on them target the low-income customers who are likely to maintain low balances.

Williamson claims First Mid-Illinois Bankshares and First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust made a practice of maximizing its overdraft charges. They are accused of breach of contract and fair dealing, unjust enrichment and violating Illinois' Consumer Fraud Act. The class asks the bank's fee policies be declared unfair and to be repaid all the overdraft charges they paid along with punitive damages and court costs.

Attorneys Eric D. Holland and Steven L. Groves of St. Louis are representing the class.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 11-L-1079

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