In the United Kingdom there are associations for most industries that are rule takers, rule makers and bodies that listen to their membership but also the views of the general public.
The UK pre-paid funeral plan industry has oversight provided by the FPA (Funeral Planning Authority).
It’s the same for builders, plumbers and architects. In the case of Funeral Directors and the organisation of funeral planning, it is the FPA which provides oversight to the financial operations and conduct of those Directors selling or re-selling private pre paid Funeral plans.
The FPA are not rule makers nor do they provide oversight of funerals taking place or other activity where no pre paid plan is in place.
Though some of the conduct particulars may cover those areas where it is directly related to funds being held, paid in advance via a funeral plan for a service to take place.
Otherwise it is The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) that is the trade body for complaints and disputes where a funeral may be paid for cash without a funeral plan.
It’s worth calling if a problem falls into a grey area where there is a funeral plan but relates more to the actions of the Funeral Director, to find out exactly where you stand.
What Are The FPA About?
The British take great importance on a company being referred and if they’re not they should be a member of an authority which while has not gained government approval or permission to be in business, has met rules and regulations and performance levels and is judged continually by their peers.
This scenario has worked well for many decades. As a Funeral Director or a large UK corporation that has amalgamated smaller funeral outlets across the country, they may have been founding members of such an association, or joined after it was set up. Funeral plans can be offered by financial institutions or by larger Funeral Director companies and other fund managers and sold to individual partners and customers directly.
Why would a Funeral Director or fund / insurance company seek membership and adhere to rules? Because it shows good standing and if a customer was to compare assurances, guarantees and best ethics, it’s human nature to choose the best. When competing for business in an area it would be foolish not to provide the best service and offer a known watermark of their trade.
How Does The FPA Work?
The FPA operates on three levels just as any industry body would. They are answerable to the government. Britain having common law would much prefer businesses adapt and create their own rules to protect customers and themselves than have to step in and inaugurate civil law from the top down. Government interference isn’t always a good thing and often creates needless red tape.
Secondly, they are concerned with their membership, the funeral directors, funeral planners, financial institutions and anyone connected to the industry involved in pre-paid funerals which could be held in trust for decades. The FPA are answerable to what is generally a majority vote when making rules of conduct or changing its association make up.
As a whole they generate rules and regulations which aid in best practices which member funeral directors or trust funds selling pre paid funeral plans should follow and adhere to. If not, and should there be a complaint, a member could lose that watermark and by doing so, see a drop in trade.
Lastly but by no means the least the customer and their family. As much as Funeral Directing is a business, the relationship is much more sensitive in the way raising an income has to be affordable and acceptable to their customers. Which is why everything from funeral payment plans to how customers should be treated and how the recently deceased are assured the funeral they paid for are governed by not only local laws, UK common laws but by industry standards set by the FPA and its membership.
As a customer of a member who carries the FPA watermark you are entitled, should the need arises, to make a complaint against the Funeral Director and see an outcome that is not only judged by peers but assisted with court action should it be deemed necessary. They can provide advice and assistance. Should a fund fail there are also best practices in those situations.
What Are The Goals Of The FPA?
Their goals are not the same as a business financial report that is announced annually. Instead they have a Code of Practice which ensures all members try to achieve the same aims. Anything an individual does reflects on the authority as a whole. Which is why there is an annual review for continuance of membership.
The FPA Code of Practice covers such subjects as personal conduct; a Funeral Director’s attentive behaviour, disclosing their interests for instance when supplying a coffin and stating that a customer doesn’t actually have to buy all services from them to have a funeral through them or ensuring that a customer understands a funeral director receives recompense for selling a funeral plan.
It is not exhaustive but continues to detail areas such as marketing and advertising – you can imagine how death should be handled when trying to attract new customers. The promise to reveal all pertinent information in document form, such as a breakdown of accounts, to issue contracts and legal documents where necessary.
The FPA can also investigate and monitor Funeral Plans to ensure a customer’s money is being handled appropriately and that when someone does pay for a funeral this way, when they die the funeral costs can be met even when they increase. Because that’s the whole point.
The FPA will handle disputes and complaints from all parties, referred to court in necessary and all members have a ‘Pledge to Customers’ in the event a funeral cannot be carried out due to a failing of the pre paid funeral plan. At this point the membership and authority should do all in its power to ensure needs and costs are met.
What Does The FPA Do?
Quite simply the FPA holds all members, Funeral Directors, Trust Funds etc. to account during an annual review of the practices and procedures in respect of selling or re-selling pre paid funeral plans. By ensuring the membership is managing monies correctly and that the Code of Conduct is being applied. The FPA can respond to customer complaints in regards to the above.
How Do They Help People Grieving From A Funeral?
The FPA are not a trade industry body relating to funerals in general, nor unfortunately are they a counselling service. If you call them they can refer you to parties who can assist. They are essentially your first port of call should a pre paid funeral plan fail. Or if the plan does not meet the inherent costs or there is a breakdown in the contract which was paid in advance for.