Consumer law guidance for care homes

November 16, 2018

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is providing consumer law guidance for care homes to help them understand their responsibilities.

The advice is being published as part of the CMA's ongoing consumer protection work into care homes and care homes with nursing for people aged over 65.

The consumer law guidance for care homes follows the CMA’s examination of the sector last year, which found that some residents are at risk of being treated unfairly and recommended urgent action to reform the sector.

The CMA has also published an open letter to care homes, reminding them of their responsibilities under consumer law and urging them to review the advice immediately. Care homes may need to make changes to their contract terms and business practices as a result.

Working with partners, such as Trading Standards, the CMA will be conducting a review in 12 months’ time to assess how well care homes are complying with consumer law. It may take further action before then if it finds care homes are treating residents and their families unfairly and breaking the law.

CMA Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli said, 'It’s vital that care homes treat residents and their families fairly, which is why we have issued advice to all homes across the UK to help them understand what they should and should not be doing under consumer law.

'We’ve already taken action against some providers who charged compulsory upfront fees or continued to charge for extended periods after a resident’s death.

'We’ll continue to monitor how well care homes are complying and won’t hesitate to take action again if we find evidence that providers have broken consumer law.'

Today’s advice sets out what care homes across the UK need to do to ensure they are treating their residents fairly, including:

  • What upfront information care homes should give to potential residents, their families or other representatives and when (through websites, over the phone and when people visit) to help them make informed choices. This includes giving an indication of the weekly fees charged to self-funders and highlighting any especially important or surprising terms and conditions that will apply (such as any requirement for residents to prove they can pay for their own care for a minimum period of time).
  • How to make sure contract terms and the way residents and their representatives are treated is fair.
  • How to handle complaints fairly and ensure their complaints procedure is easy to find and use.

The CMA has also published a short guide for care homes to accompany the full advice, as well as a short guide for residents and their families that explains their rights under consumer law.

Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage commented on the consumer law guidance for care homes. She said, 'It is a scandal some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being taken for a ride by a minority of unscrupulous care home providers. Everyone living in a care home should be treated fairly and with respect.

'I am determined to protect residents by stamping out unfair practices and secretive fees. This important new guidance will help care homes to understand and comply with their responsibilities under consumer law.

'Later this year we will set out plans to further improve consumer protections as part of the adult social care green paper.'

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Stephen Stone
Stephen Stone

But, it is the LAs who have impressed upon care homes that they ‘must’ apply a “requirement for residents to prove they can pay for their own care for a minimum period of time”; the LAs have often mentioned “at least 1 year” in that instruction to care homes. The reason LAs give is that they do not like being legally obliged to fund service users who arranged own private nursing/residential care but then quickly ran out of own money, sometimes within weeks or months.