Aged care provider apologises but ACCC takes it to court

Aged care provider apologises but ACCC takes it to court.

aged care

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has started proceedings in the Federal Court against aged care provider Bupa, alleging it made false or misleading representations about services to residents for more than a decade.

The allegations related to services the ACCC says Bupa either did not provide or only partly provided in facilities across Australia between 2007 and 2018.

The ACCC says that between December 2007 and June 2018, Bupa charged thousands of residents at 21 aged care homes in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania a fee for a package of extra services. The fees for the extra services, set out in residential agreements with residents, often amounted to thousands of dollars each year.

According to the ACCC, services promised in the package but which were 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
  • travel escorts for outside appointments.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said: “We allege that Bupa failed to provide or fully provide various extra services promised in residential agreements, but charged for them anyway.

“In some cases, the alleged misleading representations related to services that were significant to the quality of life of elderly residents. The promised services were likely also what attracted many residents and their families to choose Bupa.”

Mr. Sims said that misrepresentations in the aged care sector were of particular concern because it was often difficult for elderly residents to move to another provider.

He added: “The ACCC continues to tackle consumer issues faced by vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers as an enforcement and compliance priority in 2019, including for consumers such as elderly people with significant healthcare needs.”

Bupa said it conducted an internal investigation in 2018.

In its statement, the aged care provider said: “In 2018, Bupa undertook a review of Extra Services at our 20 care homes where these services were available. While we have found that the majority of Extra Services have been provided in these care homes, we identified that some Extra Services may not have been available, in full or in part.

“As a result, in July 2018 we began contacting those residents and their families who may be affected to apologise and re-pay fees for the relevant services, including interest.”

It says that “Extra Services” are not clinical or health services.

Bupa says it is offering compensation to affected residents at homes that may be affected. The homes are listed on its website.

The ACCC started its investigation after Bupa notified it of its conduct. Bupa has not admitted that its conduct contravenes the Australian Consumer Law.

Bupa managing director of aged care Jan Adams said: “We apologise unreservedly to those residents and families who have been affected and we are reimbursing them with interest.

“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 400 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.”

Bupa operates 78 aged care facilities in NSW, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. The ACCC’s proceedings relate to the following 21 facilities: Bankstown, Banora Point, Berry, Dural, Mosman, Queens Park, Sutherland, Tamworth, Roseville, Baulkham Hills and Willoughby (NSW); Berwick, Bonbeach, Caulfield, Coburg, Croydon, Donvale and Greensborough (Victoria); Glenvale and New Farm (Queensland) and South Hobart (Tasmania).

Does the ACCC action allay any concerns you may have about oversight of aged care facilities?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    pedro the swift
    17th Apr 2019
    10:34am
    Only the tip of an iceberg. ACCC should go after ALL business who breach the rules not just one of its choosing.
    Of course, this sort of rorting is what will always happen when you privatise essential services such as this including power, ports airports etc.
    tams
    17th Apr 2019
    1:39pm
    In 2016 ACCC received a complaint about aged care facilities charging residents for services for which they did not receive.

    ACCC said it could not find evidence of "fees for no servicing".

    Guess who is not going to look good at the Royal Commission (ACCC)

    And this court case is only about Extra Service Fees - what about the same charging under additional service fees
    tams
    17th Apr 2019
    1:39pm
    In 2016 ACCC received a complaint about aged care facilities charging residents for services for which they did not receive.

    ACCC said it could not find evidence of "fees for no servicing".

    Guess who is not going to look good at the Royal Commission (ACCC)

    And this court case is only about Extra Service Fees - what about the same charging under additional service fees

    17th Apr 2019
    11:04am
    Good on the ACCC at least its a start and shows these profit orientated grubs that a mere apology and a bit of a refund (only because they got caught out) is not good enough!
    Hairy
    17th Apr 2019
    11:13am
    I agree Pedro the swift,all aged care should be goverment run these private company have been ripping of the cream for years. No second chances theft is theft and to steal from someone who is at the end of their lifespan is predatory . Apologies in my book don’t cut it one tiny bit.
    older&wiser
    17th Apr 2019
    11:34am
    They only apologise AFTER being caught. And they work on the premise 'if we don't get caught, then that's good - we get away with it'. I worked in an Aged Care Facility for 6 months - and that was 6 months too long. What I personally saw, and was exposed to - appalled and totally disgusted me.
    I pray to everything I can stay in my own home till I leave in a box. It is the stress of having to go into an aged care place that scares me more than getting old.
    KSS
    17th Apr 2019
    1:46pm
    But they weren't caught at all. The ACCC didn't know until BUPA informed them!
    Tom Tank
    17th Apr 2019
    1:59pm
    Perhaps KSS this points to a weakness in the protection of whistleblowers as they are too frightened to dob their employer in.
    There are actually some for-profit aged care facilities that are quite good and ethical but if they are run for profit then there is money, taxpayers money, providing that profit.
    It seems that most, if not all, aged care facilities run on minimum staffing levels, in fact some are less than minimum.
    Tom Tank
    17th Apr 2019
    1:59pm
    Perhaps KSS this points to a weakness in the protection of whistleblowers as they are too frightened to dob their employer in.
    There are actually some for-profit aged care facilities that are quite good and ethical but if they are run for profit then there is money, taxpayers money, providing that profit.
    It seems that most, if not all, aged care facilities run on minimum staffing levels, in fact some are less than minimum.

    17th Apr 2019
    11:53am
    I agree totally that any breaches of the law should follow with charges and a court appearance. Sadly, if Bupa is found guilty and a heavy fine is imposed it won't be the shareholders who will cop the loss, it will cause an increase in fees for clients.

    On a brighter note, I read that the NSW government has authorised visits to a number of aged care facilities without notice. This should have been happening years ago and it is hoped that all states and territories will also have legislation to allow surprise visits.
    TREBOR
    17th Apr 2019
    5:08pm
    Is that the same shareholders who periodically say they shouldn't be paying tax since the company they 'own' has already paid company taxes? Two ways on a one way street ..... one moment they 'own' the company, but when it does wrong, it's nobody's child.

    Fine the shareholders for not keeping careful watch and for investing with depraved indifference.....

    (that'll get some here going).....
    Anonymous
    17th Apr 2019
    5:31pm
    Nice try to stir up the masses Bob. Technically, shareholders vote in a Board to make decisions on their behalf so if we take that thought to its logical conclusion, those in NSW who voted Obeid into the Upper House should be the ones who go to gaol. Further, any politician who does wrong can blame the voters.
    TREBOR
    17th Apr 2019
    7:31pm
    'Technically' is right - but when braced about paying tax on their income - one of the bleats is 'but we own the company and the company has already paid tax'... as an attempt to muddy the waters about franked dividends.... never the twain shall meet - company taxes are company taxes - personal income tax is personal income tax.... and franking on dividends is part of personal income tax for calculation - not a free handout.
    TREBOR
    17th Apr 2019
    7:33pm
    I just like to keep them on their toes....... can't have it both ways.... you're either in the hot seat or step aside..... either the buck stops with you or it never headed your way at all...

    Keep the bastards honest.... (aaargh)...
    Dancer
    17th Apr 2019
    11:59am
    I would put BUPA last on my list after I went to a facility years ago seeking care for my late husband. I stood in reception for 10 -15 minutes whilst staff came and went, totally ignoring me. I decided then that if they ignore an able bodied person how would they treat a resident.
    Dancer
    17th Apr 2019
    11:59am
    I would put BUPA last on my list after I went to a facility years ago seeking care for my late husband. I stood in reception for 10 -15 minutes whilst staff came and went, totally ignoring me. I decided then that if they ignore an able bodied person how would they treat a resident.
    Crimmo
    17th Apr 2019
    12:03pm
    My mother went into aged care in 2015 after my father died. The nursing home charges daily care fees from the day that you book the room, not from when the elderly person moves in to the room. You are paying care fees for a service not provided, when the person hasn't moved into the room yet. All government sanctioned.
    Crimmo
    17th Apr 2019
    12:03pm
    My mother went into aged care in 2015 after my father died. The nursing home charges daily care fees from the day that you book the room, not from when the elderly person moves in to the room. You are paying care fees for a service not provided, when the person hasn't moved into the room yet. All government sanctioned.
    rina1213
    17th Apr 2019
    12:16pm
    Really this all makes me sick !!!! Governments took millions out of the Aged Care funding and now want to blame others !!!! Aged Care was in need of MORE not LESS funding so do they think those working in the industry do not have a memory ? Age pensioners and Age Care need more not less and leave the family home alone !!!!
    tams
    17th Apr 2019
    4:26pm
    Exactly - that why it will cost residents more in the future.

    By the way, the family home is already means tested for aged care -
    tams
    17th Apr 2019
    4:26pm
    Exactly - that why it will cost residents more in the future.

    By the way, the family home is already means tested for aged care -
    ronloby
    17th Apr 2019
    12:23pm
    My mother dies in a Bupa home a couple of years ago. She died after a fall from a bath trolly as there was only ONE assistant there where there should have been TWO. The bath trolly was faulty as well. The inquest didn't go far enough as not much was done to Bupa, just a slap on the wrist.
    KSS
    17th Apr 2019
    1:45pm
    "The ACCC started its investigation after Bupa notified it of its conduct."

    What this tells me is that ACCC had no idea what was going on until BUPA 'fessed up. If ACCC is meant to be the watch dog, why didn't they know before BUPA told them?
    TREBOR
    17th Apr 2019
    5:05pm
    .. and verily shall the dead rise up and walk, and the wallets of the poorest be filled upon demand.....
    Anonymous
    17th Apr 2019
    5:33pm
    John 11:35
    TREBOR
    17th Apr 2019
    7:39pm
    yea, verily and but 25 minutes from the midnight hour.... and all inmates - sorry - residents shall be asleep... and no telling of jokes after lights out! Your confidentiality agreement means you cannot comment on conditions in-house to anyone ...

    That's like the time a council sent a boy around to check our septic, which still had three years to run before its check, and then billed us $80 for the visit at a time when they were changing most to sewerage (not us)..a blatant rip-off to get money for not being on the sewer and then they slapped a charge of $10 on rates for their keeping a record of our not being on it...... I said they were not to do that again without asking first, and the sheila at the front desk said they had that right any time they wanted - on their terms.

    Them's fightin' words.... city hall does NOT speak to me in those terms.. they bow down and say 'Sir' while they do it!!

    17th Apr 2019
    5:41pm
    The elderly are just seen as cash-cows by these greedy companies.
    TREBOR
    17th Apr 2019
    7:39pm
    The elderly are just seen as cash cows ......
    Triss
    17th Apr 2019
    7:36pm
    BUPA has been reported for decades over the neglect of elderly nursing home residents.


    Tags: aged care, accc,