The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court alleging Bupa Aged Care Australia Pty Ltd (Bupa) 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 the Australian Consumer Law.
Between December 2007 and June 2018, Bupa charged thousands of residents at 21 aged care homes across the country a fee for a package of extra services. The ACCC alleges that it did not provide, or only partly provided, some of these services. The fees for the extra services package often amounted to thousands of dollars each year.
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.
“We allege that Bupa failed to provide or fully provide various extra services promised in residential agreements, but charged for them anyway,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“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,” Mr Sims said.
“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 conducted an internal investigation and is offering compensation to affected residents. Residents and their families are encouraged to review the information on Bupa’s compensation program which can be found on Bupa’s website.
The ACCC is seeking injunctions, declarations, pecuniary penalties and other orders.
The ACCC commenced its investigation after Bupa notified it of the conduct. Bupa has not admitted the conduct contravenes the ACL.
Since 2007 Bupa has operated 78 aged care facilities in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania with over 6,700 residents. The ACCC’s proceedings relate to the following 21 aged care facilities that offered extra services to residents:
- Bankstown, NSW
- Banora Point, NSW
- Berry, NSW
- Dural, NSW
- Mosman, NSW
- Queens Park, NSW
- Sutherland, NSW
- Tamworth, NSW
- Roseville, NSW
- Willoughby, NSW
- Berwick, VIC
- Bonbeach, VIC
- Caulfield, VIC
- Coburg, VIC
- Croydon, VIC
- Donvale, VIC
- Greensborough, VIC
- Glenvale, QLD
- New Farm, QLD
- South Hobart, TAS
- Baulkham Hills, NSW
A full list of the extra services which the ACCC alleges were not provided (or were only provided in part) by Bupa in one or more of the affected facilities is provided below.