Almost nine months since the competition watchdog said it would investigate ‘serious matters’ involving retirement village operator Aveo, it has still not asked a single question of the company, according to chief executive Geoff Grady.
Further, political oversight for the issue at the federal level appears to have fallen through the cracks since the revelations.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told YourLifeChoices that it does not comment on ongoing investigations. However, when YourLifeChoices asked Mr Grady how the ACCC probe was progressing, he said he had not heard “anything relating to it” since the early days.
An inquiry to the Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt’s office also hit a dead end. A spokesman for the minister said he “no longer has carriage” of the matter following the last federal Cabinet reshuffle. Despite the rearrangement of the deckchairs, Mr Wyatt was Minister for Aged Care at the time of the Aveo allegations and remains so today.
At the time of writing, YourLifeChoices was still waiting to hear from his spokesman as to which federal minister was now overseeing the retirement village sector.
The sector itself is regulated by state and territory governments, but Mr Wyatt had called for a national approach to monitoring it to create national uniformity and an ombudsman specific to retirement villages.
In July, Mr Wyatt said he discussed with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull the “alarming allegations raised in the recent reports on retirement village contracts and fees”. Those reports were first brought to light by a joint Fairfax Media and Four Corners investigation, which detailed alleged “churning, gouging, safety issues and misleading marketing” by Aveo.
Mid-last year, ACCC chairman Rod Sims told Fairfax Media that there were three laws relevant for the commission to investigate: misleading conduct, unfair contract terms and unconscionable conduct. But he said the ACCC would need to unpick what the state requirements were doing.
But as revealed in the joint media report titled “Bleed them dry till they die”, allegations even more shocking were aired. Several residents told stories about being hounded out of the villages for daring to question management’s alleged dubious practices.
Law firm Levitt Robinson has collected hundreds of signatures for a class action it has begun against Aveo for what it described as “dreadful management agreements and service contracts”.
Have the politicians and regulators dropped the ball on retirement villages?