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Watch out for 'unexpected bills'

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A new report from consumer magazine Which? has found that care homes are flouting legal requirements and surprising those paying for private care with ‘unexpected’ bills and ‘unfair contracts’.

According to the consumer watchdog, of the 100 care home websites they analysed, 86 provided no pricing information and 91 offered no detail on any charges made in addition to room rates.

In fact, Which? discovered that only three care home providers made their terms and conditions (T&Cs) available online but even in these cases, some could be in breach of consumer protection laws and contain ‘unfair terms’

Some of these terms included demanding that relatives take on joint legal liability for care home fees, the ability of a care home to terminate the contract within 24 hours for undefined ‘detrimental behaviour’ and asking bereaved families to pay for their loved one’s room and care for up to a month after their death.

The Which? report comes as the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) carries out an inquiry into the multi-billion pound care industry.  To add to this picture, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which inspects homes and gives them ratings, recently reported than one in five in England offer inadequate levels of care.

Although it is a legal requirement for homes to display their CQC rating, Which? found that 27 per cent of the establishments they analysed either failed to display it online or made it almost impossible to find.

As a spokesperson for Which? commented, care home providers are making it far too difficult for people to find the vital information they need, with some expecting them to commit to unfair contracts.’