Federal court approves settlement between ACCC and Bupa

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Australia's federal court has approved a settlement between Bupa and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) under which the insurer has agreed to pay a penalty of $6 million and take a number of other actions for breaching the Australian Consumer Law.

In 2018, Bupa conducted an internal review of extra services being provided to residents. The review found some of these 'hotel-type' services, such as gardens or rooms specifically designed to assist those living with dementia, separate external buildings for residents’ leisure activities and individually controllable heating and cooling systems, were not being provided as they should have been.

The insurer reported the issue to the ACCC and began a remediation program for impacted residents. It said around 85 per cent of those impacted have been reimbursed with interest or are in the process of receiving final payments.

According to Suzanne Dvorak, managing director of Bupa Villages and Aged Care Australia, “Having a family member enter aged care is often a stressful time, and we are deeply sorry for our mistake, which impacted some of our residents and their loved ones.

“As soon as we discovered our error, we voluntarily reported the issue to the ACCC and other regulators, and began the work to ensure we compensated residents fairly and quickly. All of our current residents, and most former residents, who were impacted have been compensated with interest.

“We have also strengthened our internal processes and training as a result of this issue. We have since voluntarily revoked ‘extra service status’ in all of our care homes, which means we no longer charge extra for these services where we offer them,” said Ms Dvorak.

Bupa said a small number of former residents have not yet received reimbursement due to outdated contact details but that it is continuing to attempt to contact next of kin as a priority.

In a statement, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said, “We took this case to court despite Bupa self-reporting to the ACCC, because Bupa’s conduct impacted substantial numbers of elderly and vulnerable consumers for a significant period of time.”

In addition to the $6 million penalty, Bupa said it would also implement an Australian Consumer Law compliance program.