Bupa has come under fire from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for allegedly charging elderly residents thousands of dollars for services they never provided.
The ACCC says Bupa Aged Care Australia made false or misleading representations to its aged care residents in 21 homes about services it did not provide or only partly provided, in breach of consumer law.
The watchdog says Bupa charged thousands of residents at 21 aged care homes across the country a fee for a package of extra services.
This extra fee was charged during December 2007 and June 2008, with the fees for the extra services package often amounting to thousands of dollars each year.
According to the ACCC services not provided included 'smart room' systems for those living with dementia, air-conditioning in bedrooms, fully equipped physiotherapy rooms, hot breakfasts, leisure activity spaces, and travel escorts for outside appointments, among other things.
"We allege that Bupa failed to provide or fully provide various extra services promised in residential agreements, but charged for them anyway," says ACCC chair Rod Sims.
"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 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 has already conducted an internal investigation and is offering compensation to affected residents according to Jan Adams managing director of Bupa Aged Care.
"We apologise unreservedly to those residents and families who have been affected, and we have reimbursed all current residents impacted with interest," says Adams.
"We are committed to addressing this to put things right. Those who may have been affected have been contacted directly by Bupa. To date, we have repaid approximately 550 residents."
"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."
The ACCC has instigated proceedings in the federal court today, and is seeking injunctions, declarations, pecuniary penalties, and other orders over Bupa.
Bupa has operated 78 different aged care facilities in Australia since 2007, with over 6,700 residents.
The ACCC proceedings relate specifically to these 21 aged care facilities:
1. Bankstown, NSW
2. Banora Point, NSW
3. Berry, NSW
4. Dural, NSW
5. Mosman, NSW
6. Queens Park, NSW
7. Sutherland, NSW
8. Tamworth, NSW
9. Roseville, NSW
10. Willoughby, NSW
11. Berwick, VIC
12. Bonbeach, VIC
13. Caulfield, VIC
14. Coburg, VIC
15. Croydon, VIC
16. Donvale, VIC
17. Greensborough, VIC
18. Glenvale, QLD
19. New Farm, QLD
20. South Hobart, TAS
21. Baulkham Hills, NSW
Business News Australia
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