Care home residents and their families who have encountered hidden charges or unexpected fee increases are being encouraged to notify the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) as part of its investigation into whether people in care homes are being treated fairly.

The CMA study, which was launched last Friday (2 December), will look at whether the current complaints and regulation system gives care home residents adequate protection. It will also examine how well care homes are complying with their obligations under consumer law.

There are currently around 430,000 older people in care and nursing homes in the UK, most of which are run by private companies, charities or trusts. Some are run by councils.

The watchdog wants to hear from you if you or one of your relatives is in a care home and has faced unexplained charges, unexpected hikes in fees, or confusing requests for 'top-up' payments.

Instances where complaints have not been fairly handled are also of interest to the CMA.

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What else will the CMA look into?

As well as investigating cases where care homes have been making questionable charges, the CMA will study the effectiveness of competition between care homes in driving quality and value for money for residents and taxpayers.

It will also consider how local authorities and other public bodies purchase and assign care home places – eg, councils may pay for some or all of a person's care, depending on their eligibility – and how they encourage and shape local supply.

How can I contribute to the investigation?

If you want to get in touch to tell the CMA about your experiences, email carehomes@cma.gsi.gov.uk and provide:

  • Your name
  • Your contact details
  • The name and address of the care or nursing home concerned
  • Whether you or your relative fund your own care, are fully funded by your local authority/other funding authority, or are part-funded and pay a top-up fee
  • Information on the consumer protection issue you wish to tell the CMA about
  • Copies of any supporting information you may have, such as copies of the care home contract/agreement and any correspondence from and with the care or nursing home

More details can be found on the CMA's reporting page.

Those who would like to submit their views must do so by 5pm on 16 January 2017, ahead of the expected publication of an interim report in May.

'Essential that elderly people feel secure in the knowledge they'll be fairly treated'

Andrea Coscelli, acting chief executive of the CMA, says: "Choosing a care home can be emotional and costly. It's therefore essential that elderly people and their families have all the information they need to make the best possible choice, and then feel secure in the knowledge they will be fairly treated throughout their time there.

"We are undertaking a thorough review of the sector to make sure it works in the best interests of those who rely on it. We want to hear from care home providers about the services they offer and any challenges they face, as well as residents, families and charities who have experienced what it's like to choose and live in a care home.

"Given the concerns we have heard about possible breaches of consumer law, we particularly want to hear from people who think they might have encountered unfair terms or practices."