Seafirst To Settle ‘No-Fee’ Lawsuit

Seafirst Bank says it will settle a class-action lawsuit in which it was accused of wrongly charging fees on supposedly “no-fee” checking accounts.

Seafirst, the state’s largest bank, offered FirstChoice Versatel accounts, which have no monthly or per-check fees or minimum balance, but charge customers $3 if they use a human teller for routine business such as deposits or withdrawals.

The suit, filed last year in King County Superior Court, contended that Seafirst charged a “banker assistance fee” to a customer who wrote checks to another person, who then cashed the checks at a Seafirst bank.

After the fee was assessed several times, the customer, Kimberly Anne Watson, and the Seattle law firm of Hagens & Berman filed suit and had it certified as a class action.

Seafirst has agreed to set aside $150,000 to cover fees erroneously charged. Bank spokesman David Jimenez said notices were sent to about 365,000 customers, but the bank estimates only about 50,000 will be affected.

The settlement is to be presented to a Superior Court judge Jan. 9 for approval.

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