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Government findings back sites like Funeral Guide

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Independent funeral advice on sites like Funeral Guide could help people make more informed funeral choices when a loved one dies, according to Government research.

The Competition and Markets Authority has said survey findings suggest bereaved and “at need” consumers would “welcome independent advice on arranging funerals.”

But it added that further research was needed to identify how to break social taboos over “shopping around” for a funeral.

In depth survey findings and a UK-wide market research study comissioned by the CMA have revealed detailed information about the priorities people had when they arranged a funeral for a loved one – and the decisions they made.

The findings reveal that the services of a funeral director, some form of service or celebration of life, and a coffin that did not appear visibly cheap, were among the elements deemed “non-negotiable” by the at-need bereaved.

Yet a greater awareness of information sources could give people greater control of their decision-making and budget, without diminishing any gesture of respect, the findings suggest.

The research is part of an ongoing probe into competition within the funeral and crematoria market, to identify how people can become better informed of the choices available to them, meet funeral costs more easily and avoid unnecessary costs or debt.

The newly-published research has shown that “doing right” by a loved one at their funeral is regarded by people as a priority, with 91 per cent arranging a burial or cremation with some form of ceremony before the final committal.

The findings reveal that only eight per cent of people opted for a budget direct funeral involving the person’s body going straight to the crematorium or grave with no act of remembrance. Indeed, almost all people who explained their reasons felt that direct funerals fell outside of “social norms.”

People who responded to the detailed survey said they had made funeral arrangements through a local funeral director and, where possible, factored in any funeral wishes that their loved one had expressed.

Although a local funeral director was their preferred choice, not everyone had been aware there was more than one funeral home in their local area. Yet almost three quarters of people did not compare funeral directors, even when they were aware there was a choice.

Where people did check and compare local funeral directors’ websites, the survey found that this was in the hope of finding clear pricing information. Many people based their decision upon family tradition, previous funeral arrangements or a word-of-mouth recommendation.

Most people defined good funeral service in terms of how the practical elements were carried out, the care they received and the delivery of a “meaningful farewell” for their loved one.

However, the findings also showed that while most people were aware of a “ballpark” figure of funeral costs, many felt committed to going through with arrangements with a funeral director, without a full idea of what the total bill would be.

The survey found that emotional distress, time-pressure and social taboos lead many people to make quick funeral decisions, without “shopping around.”

In September, a key funeral industry trade association, SAIF, urged its members to include clear, no-hidden-costs price guides on their websites.

Along with The National Association of Funeral Directors and organisations including Funeral Guide, SAIF is supporting the CMA’s Funerals Market Study, a review looking at how the funeral market works and about prices, services and information to ensure that people get a good deal.

The CMA said that barriers currently holding people back from engaging with information providing greater awareness of their options “need to be considered.”

The report considers how a cultural shift towards discussing death and funeral matters earlier could help people feel less pressured when they are newly bereaved, grieving and anxious to do the ‘right’ thing for their loved one.

The findings also suggest that carrying out a loved one’s funeral wishes can give bereaved families a greater degree of confidence and flexibility; especially over funeral costs, if it’s what their loved one wanted.

Funeral Guide chief executive Ed Gallois said: “We welcome the Government’s in-depth research into the funerals market and their finding that the newly bereaved would welcome access to independent advice when arranging a funeral.

“Hopefully this report will also increase people’s awareness that they don’t have to feel so rushed into making decisions at their time of need.”

  • The studies were carried out by Research Works and Ipsos Mori for the CMA. Read the findings of both surveys in full and more about the CMA’s Funeral Markets Study here.
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