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ACCC takes ‘deceptive’ Bupa to court

The consumer watchdog is taking healthcare provider Bupa to court for allegedly making false and misleading claims about the services it provides at more than a quarter of its aged care facilities.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said between December 2007 and June 2018, Bupa charged residents at 21 of its 78 homes often thousands more a year for extra services.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims alleged Bupa failed to provide or fully provide 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,” Mr Sims said.

“The promised services were likely also what attracted many residents and their families to choose Bupa.”

Some of the promised services include air-conditioning in all bedrooms, covered outdoor exercise areas, fully equipped physiotherapy rooms, hot breakfasts and travel escorts for outside appointments.

Other activities include separate leisure activity spaces, large talking book libraries and tactile and sensory walkways.

Additionally, to assist those living with dementia ‘smart room’ technology systems were promised.

The ACCC’s proceedings relate to 11 homes in NSW, seven in Victoria, two in Queensland and one in Tasmania – with each facing different allegations.

NSW homes include Bankstown, Mosman, Tamworth and more.

In Victoria Berwick, Caulfield and Croydon are among those were affected while in Queensland New Farm and Glenvale were listed.

In Berwick residents were promised the choice of three hot dishes for breakfast and their favourite meal at least twice a week – it’s alleged these services were not provided or only provided in part.

Bupa says the extra services were additional ‘hotel type’ services to provide a higher accommodation standard, but were not clinical or health services.

An internal investigation has been conducted and Bupa has repaid about 550 residents with interest.

Bupa’s aged care managing director Jan Adams apologised to residents and families in a statement.

“We are committed to addressing this to put things right,” Ms Adams said.

“We have made significant changes to our systems to ensure this does not happen again.”

The ACCC commenced its investigation after Bupa notified it of the conduct.

Bupa no longer offers extra services in its aged care homes.

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