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ACCC pulls Bupa Aged Care into court for misleading claims about services

Bupa Aged Care has been taken to Federal Court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) following allegations the aged care provider was making false or misleading claims to its aged care residents about services.

Fees often equated to thousands of dollars being paid per year by residents for services that weren't properly provided. [Source: Shutterstock]
Fees often equated to thousands of dollars being paid per year by residents for services that weren't properly provided. [Source: Shutterstock]

The ACCC alleges that Bupa Aged Care is in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) with promises of services they did not provide or only partly provided even though residents were charged.

The allegations from the ACCC occurred between December 2007 and June 2018, which involved Bupa charging thousands of residents from 21 aged care homes across Australia a fee for the extra services package.

Fees often equated to thousands of dollars being paid per year and were set out in residential agreements with residents.

Services not provided include ‘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.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims says, “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.

“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.”

The ACCC is pursuing injunctions, declarations, financial penalties and other orders against Bupa in court.

Investigations by the ACCC began after notification from Bupa about the conduct, however, Bupa has not acknowledged the conduct breached the ACL.

In 2018 Bupa conducted their own internal investigation. Yesterday, the privately owned company announced that they are offering compensation to affected residents.

Bupa has stated that the extra services were not clinical care or health services but “additional hotel type” services.

They have also claimed they have repaid approximately 550 residents with interest.

Jan Adams, Bupa’s Managing Director of Aged Care, says, “We apologise unreservedly to those residents and families who have been affected, and we have reimbursed all current residents impacted with interest.

“We are committed to addressing this to put things right. Those who may have been affected have been contacted directly by Bupa...We notified our regulators including the ACCC as soon as we became aware of this issue and have worked throughout to communicate openly to all involved.

“We have made significant changes to our systems to ensure this does not happen again. We also engaged independent external advisers in the development of the repayment program to ensure a fair and equitable approach.”

Since notifying the ACCC, the national regulator has raised concerns regarding to what extent the available extra services were provided to those affected.

Operating 78 aged care facilities in South Australia, New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (VIC), Queensland (QLD) and Tasmania (TAS) with over 6,700 residents, 27 percent of Bupa facilities are affected.

The affected homes include: NSW aged care facilities -  Bankstown, Banora Point, Berry, Dural, Mosman, Queens Park, Sutherland, Tamworth, Roseville, Willoughby, Baulkham Hills; VIC aged care facilities - Berwick, Bonbeach, Caulfield, Coburg, Croydon, Donvale, Greensborough; Glenvale and New Farm in QLD; and South Hobart, TAS.

Bupa does not offer extra services in its aged care homes anymore.

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