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Can a seller charge more after an invoice has been paid and the service delivered?

My mother booked my step-father into respite nursing home care for a 6 week period of time. Payment was required in advance. She was provided with an invoice for the whole 6 week period, and after checking that it was ok, paid the whole amount in person by cheque on the day she took him in for admission. All went reasonably well.

Three weeks after his stay had ended, she received an invoice from the same nursing home for a slightly larger amount than what she originally paid. She called them and asked what the invoice was for, and was advised that it was for the total cost of his stay. She told them that she had paid in full at the time he was admitted, and pointed out that the two amounts were different. They told her that the daily accommodation rate had increased slightly during his stay there, and the original invoice did not factor in the increase, and that $23.10 was the total difference. She got cross and told them that she would not pay the difference – it was an error on their part and they should absorb the cost. I am not sure how the conversation ended at that stage.

Two weeks later she received another invoice that showed the second slightly larger amount in the first line, and in the second line the amount she had paid with the date of payment correctly displayed, leaving a residual amount of $23.10 still to pay. Now she is very cross and has asked me for advice.

I would have thought that given that she paid on the quoted amount at the required time, and that the service was delivered and complete, that is the end of the transaction. They shouldn’t be able to come back three weeks after the end of the transaction and ask for more money due to a mistake on their end? I have looked through the ACCC site and tried searching for a consumer law relating to this, and whilst the laws are pretty clear for goods, it is less clear for services. Does anyone have any advice or links?

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Perhaps name and shame these disgraceful grubs.

They certainly deserve the “free” publicity.

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Aged Care services are indexed periodically by the government. Possibly that is what happened. If so, you are right that the service provider should have informed you up front that the final price would be subject to change (and told you why).

The resulting indexed price cannot as such be predicted in advance by the service provider.

Under the circumstances I am surprised that any company would value the reputational damage at less than $23.10 i.e. better just to absorb the loss - and do better with the invoicing next time.

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I assume the rules are the same for a short term respite/nursing care arrangement as for aged care.

The page references an accommodation agreement.

Accommodation agreement - sets out what room you are taking and how much you have agreed to pay, as well as other accommodation conditions, if relevant.

Did your mum have one? She should and you should start by reading it since the answer to your question whether they can come back after the invoice and payment should lie therein.

Having looked at a few examples, it seems a prepaid ‘booking fee’ by whatever terminology seems common, and while that is intended to reflect the final payment that would be due, there is text where an overpayment will be refunded and an underpayment billed for the difference.

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Just wondering if you have seen the invoice and what it says. Was it a deposit/expected costs and advanced payment or a total full and final cost for the weeks respite?

If it was unequivocally for the 6 weeks prepayment, then you should be in your rights to not pay the additional $23.10. The service provider provided the costs for the requested services to which you paid in full at their request prior to the commencement of the service.

If it was a deposit with the possibIy that final costs would be invoiced after the stay, then they could have grounds to request the additional $23.10. I suspect that if it was a deposit, it may be so to allow additional costs during the stay (such as additional consumables not usualky covered by a standard respite stay.

Another thought is it because of a room rate increase or other costs which were incurred and unforeseen at the start of the stay…at the time of the initial invoice issuing?

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I believe that was the case in this instance, and that the rate changed during his stay, but the invoice doesn’t provide any information at all about the changed amount, including how many days it covers.

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Thank you. Interesting. I have some of her paperwork with me, but not the actual agreement, so I will check back with her about that and see what terminology was used. I suspect you are right. She didn’t show that part of the paperwork to me and I suspect she has overlooked it.

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I have seen the ‘invoice’, but you are right, it is not an actual invoice. It does show the tariff rate per fortnight and per day.

I suspect that this is correct, and she has not understood the nature of the information provided. I will have a look at the Agreement when I see her this weekend and see what it says.

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Ironically, some 50 years ago, it was common practice for a business to have “E&OE” or “Errors & Omissions Excluded” stated on their invoices which allowed them to legally revise and change the amount charged.

I don’t know when it disappeared in Australia as I have not seen it in decades, but if it was legal, perhaps it still is.

However it does not cut it against the justly deserved backlash of social media.

If a healthcare provider is this miserable and penny-pinching with their billing, one would have to wonder about the quality of the rest of their operation.

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At My Aged Care: Costs explained it says:
" Based on current rates, the maximum basic daily fee is $51.21 per day, or $18,691.65 per year.

This fee helps pay for your day-to-day services such as meals, cleaning, facilities management and laundry. Everyone is expected to pay a basic daily fee to cover these services.

The basic daily fee is 85% of the single person rate of the basic age pension. The government sets the price on 20 March and 20 September each year, changing in line with increases to the age pension. Prices are published on the Department of Health website.

You pay your basic daily fee directly to your aged care home, generally on a fortnightly or monthly basis. The fee applies for every day you are a resident, including days when you might be away overnight; for example, on holiday or in hospital."

So that is the justification. Now as stated by others, it all depends on what your mother agreed to. Unless stated otherwise, I would take it as full and final payment regardless of the price increase. IF they did equivocate somehow, then they need to give accurate billing showing which days they are charging extra for and how much (presumably based on the marginal increase in costs).

The Dept of Health link above will allow you to see what the charges should have been pre and post the price increase to confirm the veracity of the billing.

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Unless the ‘contract’ contains a general get-out clause for the provider relating to government actions (which in this case are predictable but clearly outside the control of the provider).

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My apologies, I forgot to update this post with the outcome.

So I went back to my mother and checked all the information she was provided with. The initial cover letter that detailed the cost of my stepfather’s stay actually included an incorrect daily rate, and therefore an incorrect total amount. The rate was for the previous 6 month period, and given that his stay was several months after the rate had changed, this was definitely a mistake on their part.

The Agreement that contained the majority of the terms and conditions for his stay was missing. Mum explained (and the cover letter also indicated) that she had to sign that Agreement and then return it to them, so there was no way of checking it. There was a supplementary document that contained some definitions and other terms and conditions, and referred to Appendices and Schedules that were not in that documents, and it is likely that they were in the original Agreement. Who can tell?

In the end she just paid the difference. We agreed that in the future we would make copies of any future documents.

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Thanks for the update.

If this is the case, one could argue that the additional requested payment, even though minor in nature, should not be paid as the offer amount in the letter is what the agreement was based. If they made a mistake, which is fully outside your contriol, the business in good faith should have honoured the letter offer. It is disappointing that they took the alternative approach.

Edit: should have also said that the service was taken based on the fixed offer in the letter. One can’t reasonably expect a business/company to change an offer once accepted/service was completed. Otherwise, unscrupulous businesses would regularly do this to ‘make’ money from their customers. Imagine buying a car, signing a contract for purchase/delivery based on an offer price…only to find out on collection of the vehicle that it cost another $1000. Such would be seen as misleading practices under the Australian Consumer Law.

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It is worth noting the government is only setting a maximum price. An aged care provider is free to charge or offer to charge less than this maximum.

Very recent first hand experience has revealed most providers charge the maximum. The contracts residents or their representatives agree to our legally enforceable undertakings and set out any variations or agreement to pay additional costs. Some providers advised the rates were adjusted in line with the government twice yearly reviews.

The contracts are long and need to be read in full. The service provider should ensure the resident or representative has a duplicate or second copy of the contract as of signing. If not insist.

A common recommendation is that before entry to respite or for permanent residence in aged care an EPOA should be provided to a suitable choice of relative or other trusted person. It is a stressful time for many and complex system to navigate.

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This.

When we were getting an elderly relative into aged care, we had a specialist lawyer review the contract to make sure that all the many conditions were usual ones, and to highlight anything that we should specifically be aware of.

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