Funeral providers told to give upfront prices to prevent vulnerable people from being ripped-off
Funeral providers have been told to disclose prices more clearly and to let customers know pricing in advance. These are just some of the measures unveiled by the UK’s competition watchdog in a bid to prevent vulnerable people from being ripped-off.
The recommendations come from the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) final report into funeral services across the UK published today, where it's also called for the Government to launch inspections to monitor the quality of funeral director services - see below for full details on the plans.
But while the CMA warns it “continues to have serious concerns” about the sector, it's stopped short of introducing actual price controls, blaming coronavirus pandemic restrictions and an increase in demand for funerals for making it harder to conduct research and test remedies. It adds that local authorities, devolved administrations and central government also have limited capacity at this time to push through changes.
See Prepaid Funeral Plans for more details on how they work and if they're worth it.
What has the CMA recommended?
The CMA has today formally confirmed its provisional conclusions first issued in August, including:
An obligation for all funeral directors and crematorium operators to disclose prices in a manner that will help customers make more informed decisions.
Information must be provided in advance of a customer committing to purchase a service so that people know the price they will be charged and the key terms of business – for example if a deposit is required.
Customers should be made aware of any relevant business, financial and commercial interests of the funeral director, and that certain practices – such as payments which may incentivise hospitals, care homes or hospices to refer customers to a particular funeral director – will be prohibited.
A recommendation to Government to establish an independent inspection and registration regime to monitor the quality of funeral director services as a first step in the establishment of a broader regulatory regime for funeral services.
Most of the conclusions are orders, so the industry has to comply, but the final bullet above is a recommendation to the Government, so it's up to the Government if it complies.
It's also worth pointing out that while this was a UK-wide investigation, some of the conclusions may differ in how they are implemented due to devolved governments.
What does the CMA say?
Martin Coleman, CMA panel inquiry chair, said: "Organising a funeral is often very distressing and people can be especially vulnerable during this time. That’s why our remedies are designed to help people make choices that are right for them and ensure they can be confident that their loved one is in good hands.
"The CMA will be keeping a close eye on this sector to make sure our remedies are properly implemented and help it to decide whether further action is necessary when circumstances return to a more steady state."
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The loss of a loved one is a painful time for families, and the Government is determined to do what it can to ease the burden on them.
“We will carefully consider this report and respond in due course.”