Bupa Aged Care in court for misleading conduct
A major Australian aged-care provider has been taken to court by the ACCC for charging for services it did not provide.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against Bupa Aged Care Australia Pty Ltd (Bupa), alleging the organisation made false or misleading representations to aged-care residents in 21 homes, charging them for services it did not provide or only partly provided, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The ACCC alleges that between December 2007 and June 2018, Bupa charged thousands of residents fees for a package of extra services that it did not provide, or only partly provided, in 21 aged-care homes across the country. The fees for the extra services package often amounted to thousands of dollars each year.
“In some cases the alleged misleading representations related to services that were significant to the quality of life of elderly residents,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. “The promised services were likely also what attracted many residents and their families to choose Bupa.
“Misrepresentations in the aged-care sector are particularly concerning, because unlike many other services, it’s often difficult for elderly residents to move to another provider,” he said.
Bupa operates 78 aged-care facilities in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania with over 6700 residents. The ACCC’s proceedings relate to the 21 aged-care facilities that offered extra services to residents. The extra services were set out in residential agreements with residents. Services not provided included:
- ‘smart room’ systems to assist those living with dementia,
- air-conditioning in all bedrooms,
- covered outdoor exercise areas,
- large talking book libraries,
- tactile and sensory walkways,
- fully equipped physiotherapy rooms,
- separate leisure activity spaces,
- hot breakfasts, and
- travel escorts for outside appointments.
The ACCC commenced its investigation after Bupa notified it of the conduct. Bupa has not admitted the conduct contravenes the ACL.
Bupa has conducted an internal investigation and is offering compensation to affected residents. Residents and their families are being encouraged to review the information on Bupa’s compensation program which can be found on Bupa’s website.
“We apologise unreservedly to those residents and families who have been affected, and we are reimbursing them with interest,” said Bupa’s Managing Director of Aged Care, Jan Adams.
“We are committed to addressing this to put things right. Those who may have been affected are being contacted directly by Bupa. To date, we have repaid approximately 551 residents. All impacted residents will be contacted and repaid.
“A review into this matter is ongoing and we have made significant changes to our systems to ensure this issue does not happen again. We engaged independent external advisers in the development of the repayment program to ensure a fair and equitable approach.
“Our remediation program began in July 2018 and will continue until all impacted residents are repaid.”
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