The country’s leading class action experts, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, has responded to calls from retirement housing advocates and residents for more to be done in providing access to justice for thousands of older Australians and their families that are allegedly being taken advantage of by unscrupulous retirement housing providers.
Today, Maurice Blackburn has announced it will take registrations from former residents of the Aveo chain of retirement housing operations, as the law firm continues its ongoing investigation into concerns of unfair and unconscionable contracts used by Aveo.
This announcement comes in the wake of a Victorian Government Inquiry into problems in the retirement housing sector, an ACCC investigation, and extensive news coverage of the alleged mistreatment of elderly people and potential breaches of Australian Consumer Law.
In response to Aveo residents and advocacy groups calling for stronger rights and protections for the elderly in such situations, and to increase access to justice for older Australians, Maurice Blackburn is investigating running a class action for affected people on a no-win no-fee basis.
Class Action Principal at Maurice Blackburn, Brooke Dellavedova, said it could be the best option available for affected elderly people to band together and hold the company accountable for taking unfair advantage of them.
“We don’t think it’s fair or legal to subject elderly people to complex and confusing contracts that contain unfair terms,” Ms Dellavedova said.
“There is understandably a high level of concern that people looking to enjoy their retirement, and who may be physically or mentally vulnerable, should not be taken advantage of by unscrupulous business models.
“If enough people want to take action against Aveo, then we will look to step in and stand up for these people.
“A no-win no-fee action provides a mechanism for affected people to access the legal system without outlaying any money, and if the case is successful, they won’t have to pay a portion of damages to a funder, because we plan to conduct this case without one.”
Unlike in the USA, Australian lawyers cannot charge a percentage fee of recoveries.
The Consumer Action Law Centre has also supported the opportunity for the class action regime to fill what is currently a major gap in protecting the rights of elderly consumers, with CEO Gerard Brody welcoming the Maurice Blackburn class action against Aveo.
“Older people should be able to move into retirement housing without having to worry about being bamboozled by complex contracts and unfair fees,” Mr Brody said.
“Until now, the retirement village sector has avoided proper scrutiny of its contracts, and it’s about time someone stood up for the rights of residents.
“Residents and their families have struggled to take on the unfair fees charged by retirement village operators in courts and tribunals alone. Accessing justice has simply been too expensive and complex for most.
“We welcome the news that Maurice Blackburn will be investigating concerns of unfair and unconscionable contracts used by Aveo on behalf of former residents.”