The Government is taking steps to ensure greater price transparency across the funeral sector. Among those to have welcomed a move are funeral directors who say clear pricing will help bereaved families at a very difficult time.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is set to review how funeral services and prices are advertised, to ensure that bereaved families are not surprised by ‘hidden’ costs.
In a separate move, the Treasury is set to investigate the pre-paid funeral plan market, to clamp down on businesses selling funeral plans that are not legitimate – and ensure bereaved families get a fair deal.
Making funeral costs clearer
The CMA is set to look at whether the information provided by funeral directors is clear enough for people to choose the best options within their budget. It said the average cost of a funeral was nearly £3,800 in 2017 – with ‘extras’ that can add another £2,000 to the total bill.
Many people can be unaware that the total funeral cost is generally made up of three separate parts.
The first two are the funeral director’s services – including collecting and looking after someone who has died, paperwork, transport and other administration – and the rising costs charged by a cemetery or crematorium for the burial or cremation.
Finally, there are third-party costs for products and services from the coffin, to funeral flowers and even the vicar or celebrant’s fees.
The CMA wants to ensure that bereaved families are fully aware of the complete cost of every funeral, so that there are no hidden extras at a very difficult time.
Its director of markets, Daniel Gordon, said: “As part of this study, we want to ensure that people can at least receive clear information on prices and the services making up a funeral, and that people get a fair deal on the cremation fees charged.”
Transparent pricing on the door
More and more funeral directors are advertising their prices clearly online and setting out the costs involved in arranging a funeral. Many too, are offering funeral packages that include a complete funeral service from start to finish.
Harrogate funeral director Jonathan Robinson, who has embarked on a 285-mile march to Westminster to raise awareness of funeral poverty and rising costs, is among them.
He said: “Bereaved families need to be sure when they arrange a funeral that it’s the same price as advertised on the door, including disbursements such as cremation or burial fees.”
Independent funeral director Simon Helliar-Moore agrees, saying it’s time for all funeral homes to be transparent over prices: “We’ve welcomed the review,” he said.
“The families we look after say how welcome it is that our own prices are so transparent and clear, after searching around.”
Pre-paid funeral plans
Meanwhile, the Treasury is launching a review of the funeral plan sector, with hidden costs a part of its agenda, too. It aims to safeguard vulnerable people from being pressured to take out funeral plans that may not cover what they are expecting. It will also look at how funeral plans can be regulated.
The pre-paid funeral plans sector has its own membership body, the Funeral Planning Authority, which has been taking steps to ensure that its members adhere to a strict code of conduct. But not all funeral plan providers are members of the FPA and its code of conduct is not written into law.
The Government’s move will bolster steps by legitimate pre-paid funeral plan providers to ensure that bereaved families are given a fair deal. It wants every funeral plan to be clear about the funeral costs they cover.
John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said that while most pre-paid funeral plan providers were “fair and legitimate,” tougher regulation would ensure robust standards for bereaved families.
James Daley, managing director of consumer organisation Fairer Finance, said: “Funeral plans are an important and valuable product, and we hope regulation of this sector will give responsible companies the chance to thrive, and give consumers the necessary reassurances they need to buy in confidence.”