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The Competition and Markets Authority have published updates on their investigation of the "supply of services by funeral directors" in the UK.
The CMA is investigating all aspects of funeral services in the UK in order to improve transparency and consumer choice. The Overview of Key Research and Analysis lays out the initial findings of the investigation.
Working papers show that transparency is essential in the funeral profession
The CMA working paper on Funeral director sales practices and transparency highlights the fact that "showing customers information on the decisions they need to make, typical third-party costs, and examples/packages/costs prior to the arrangement meeting would be helpful and can increase transparency".
However, it was mentioned that most customers questioned as part of a mystery shopping survey didn't request pricing when first contacting funeral directors, suggesting that "a lack of transparency may therefore be driven by customer preferences."
It was also noted that "While a little over half of funeral director websites had some cost information on them (53%)” only half of the pricing related to at need funeral pricing.
Further anecdotal evidence suggested that more information on pricing and services being available to the bereaved at the time of need "can help to empower customers to make their own choices."
Competition between funeral directors and 'back of house' care are also under review
There is currently a lack of clarity on 'back of house' care. The report suggests that the bereaved are unsure of what to expect in this area, so they cannot make a comparison between funeral directors. Even when reviews are left online, they cannot reveal details about how well a loved one is looked after whilst in care of the funeral director.
Also under review is competition between funeral directors. Almost all bereaved families will use the services of a funeral director within a 20 minute drive, or 6-mile radius, of their loved one's home. This can result in a lack of competition in some areas of the country. The CMA is also investigating pricing and competition between all crematoria in the UK.
The CMA has published four potential remedies to these issues:
- The introduction of a quality regulation regime
- Measures to promote greater information transparency
- Price controls
- Local authority procurement of funeral director services
The CMA is welcoming responses to these papers. Anyone interested in commenting on them should email their responses to firstname.lastname@example.org by 27 February 2020.
Funeral Guide will provide updates as analysis of these initial findings continues.