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Funeral sector to be investigated by the competition watchdog

Funeral sector to be investigated by the competition watchdog

The competition watchdog has launched an in-depth investigation into the funeral sector due to fears that grieving families aren't being given a good deal.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it is "concerned about the effectiveness of competition" in the sector, and will focus on funeral directors and the supply of crematoria services.

It said the "vulnerability" of many people when organising a funeral appears to have made it easier for some funeral directors to charge higher prices.

The CMA warned last year that it may have to investigate the sector after finding that the cost of a cremation has jumped massively on average over the past 10 years.

See our Death happens - plan for it, What to do when someone dies and Funeral plans guides for more help.

What are the CMA's key concerns?

The CMA said the issues it is concerned about include:
 
  • The rise in cost of organising a funeral, the essential elements of which have increased by 6% each year – twice the inflation rate – for the last 14 years. Funerals typically cost several thousand pounds which is a significant outlay for households.

  • The vulnerability of many people when organising a funeral, which may mean that they are not in a position to look at a range of choices. 

  • Reluctance of firms to publish/disclose clear prices, including online, or to provide comprehensive information on quality and range, making it difficult for people to compare funeral directors.

  • Low numbers of crematoria providers in local areas, and difficulty for new companies to enter the market due to the planning regime and high fixed costs.

  • High prices in relation to crematoria services. The largest private operators have implemented average price rises of between 6% and 8% each year for the past eight years, and some local authorities have also implemented large increases in fees.

What could the investigation lead to?

The CMA says the purpose the market investigation is to examine its concerns and decide what action, if any, is appropriate.

It has the power to make legally binding orders requiring changes to be made, if necessary.