The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) commenced a study into the care sector to determine if it was working for the clients it services. The full report is due to be published in December 2017. However, it now appears that a subsidiary investigation has also been launched into whether or not some of the terms of contracts providers hold with service users or their operating procedures, is a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA).
In brief, the CRA sets out the rules that govern the sale of goods and services by businesses to members of the public, this includes services users in care settings. It implies standard basic terms, such as using reasonable skill and care, charging a reasonable price and completing the task within a reasonable time.
Issues such as pricing and methods of terminating the contract must be transparent, drawn to the consumer’s attention and be fair. For example, “hidden” administrative fees would be held to breach these terms, so if there is such a charge it must be made very clear from the outset and also probably justified on the grounds of cost incurred.
One example cited by the CMA talk about families being asked to pay for rooms for up to one month after their relative has passed away, even if a new occupant has moved into the room. In that scenario, it is questionable whether or not the fees should cease at an earlier point and particularly when the room became re-occupied.
Providers should scrutinise their contracts to ensure that they do not fall foul of this and seek advice if they are concerned.
If your business may be affected by the issues raised in this article, please feel free to contact us to discuss your options.
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The watchdog has received reports that some families are paying for deceased loved one’s rooms in care homes up to a month after they have passed away. It has heard cases of this occurring even after new residents have moved into the rooms, resulting in double charging two different families for the same room.