Trading fairly in the care sector?
The much publicised decision of the Competition Commission Appeal Tribunal, Northern Ireland (CCAT) in the case of Bettercare Group Ltd v Director General of Fair Trading, decided in August, has caused considerable excitement among private care providers and a certain degree of anxiety among local authority purchasers. Not all the reporting about the case has been strictly correct and it is useful to analyse the judgment to ascertain precisely what the case did and did not decide. The facts of the case are relatively simple. Bettercare runs care homes in the Shankhill area of Belfast. Because of the social and political situation, 99 per cent of placements in their homes are made by the local health and social services trust. The trust also runs care homes of its own. The trust pays higher fees for residents in its own homes than it pays Bettercare. Bettercare wrote to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) complaining that the trust had abused its dominant position, contrary to the Chapter II prohibition imposed b