26 March 2024

New taskforce to investigate and penalise dodgy NDIS providers

| Chris Johnson
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Bill Shorten

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten has had enough of the NDIS providers who rip off participants. Photo: File.

Bill Shorten is cracking down on NDIS providers who overcharge participants, with an investigations process already underway.

The Government Services Minister has launched a new taskforce to investigate suspected unfair pricing practices in the scheme, and it got to work straight away.

The taskforce is chaired by The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC), working together with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and the National Disability Insurance Agency.

The NDIS Commission will tackle illegal overcharging of NDIS participants, while the ACCC will focus on investigating and clamping down on misleading conduct, unfair contract terms and anti-competitive agreements.

“The era of ripping off disabled people on the NDIS is over,” Mr Shorten said.

“Charging you more just because you are simply an NDIS participant is wrong and it is a breach of federal law.

“We have upgraded the NDIS rules to make it clear overcharging is prohibited and we have further legal changes coming to more strongly prohibit and punish such practices.”

Those found in breach of the law could face severe penalties, including permanent banning, infringement and compliance notices, civil financial penalties and/or injunctions imposed.

Where fraud is suspected, urgent referral will be made to the fraud fusion taskforce for criminal sanctions against the provider found guilty of rip-offs.

“Participants and the disability sector have known about this problem for years,” Mr Shorten said.

“We finally have the legal powers to fix it with this taskforce and changes to the NDIS Code of Conduct.

“I know most service providers are doing the right thing, but there is a small minority of swindlers who are giving everyone a bad name.”

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The Federal Government increased funding to the ACCC last year when it announced $6.7 million to be invested over four years.

The extra money will support the NDIS Commission to investigate and act against dodgy providers who make false or misleading representations about their products or services.

From this week, every NDIS participant, their carers, guardians, and nominees, will receive a letter explaining their rights and how to fight back against the NDIS “wedding tax” – where prices are increased just because someone is on the NDIS.

Minister Shorten said the new taskforce was part of a broader plan to close loopholes and defend the NDIS.

Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh said the ACCC’s work with the NDIS Commission and NDIA would be “monumental” to people with disability.

“The ACCC will remain a tough cop on the beat, with additional resourcing to take action against providers who breach the existing consumer protection laws,” Dr Leigh said.

“When you are on the NDIS you have a legal right to pay a fair and reasonable rate and not be subjected to price hikes.

“You also have a right to not be pressured into buying a support or service you don’t want or need.”

People with Disability Australia president, Marayke Jonkers, an NDIS participant, welcomed the new protections and penalties.

“NDIS participants are not cash cows and we’re sick of being ripped off,” she said.

“We deserve to be safe and get value for money, just like any other consumer.

“These changes will help end the practice of charging us more for the same service simply because we’re on the NDIS while putting the onus on the providers to do the right thing.”

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The sector has helped the government implement the changes, with long-standing service providers leading the way.

Rob White from Alliance 20, a group of Australia’s largest services providers, said long-established disability service providers worked hard to improve the integrity of the NDIS for all participants.

“This action is another positive move towards strengthening the NDIS,” he said.

“We are committed to working together with the government and partner agencies to eliminate all rip-offs and safeguard the scheme.”

Ability First chief executive Andrew Rowley said his organisation fully supported the taskforce.

“Our members have zero tolerance for fraud. We support the minister and the government stopping this fraudulent behaviour and defending NDIS participants from dodgy operators,” Mr Rowley said.

Anyone concerned they are being overcharged by an NDIS provider can email the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission at [email protected] or call 1800 035 544.

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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