Investigation launched into the cost of funerals

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into the cost of funerals amid concerns that large price hikes are hitting people when they are at their most vulnerable.

The CMA launched a Market Study into the funerals sector six months ago. The report it issued recently shows that for over ten years, both funeral director services and crematoria services have issued above inflation price rises, which do not appear to be justified by cost increases or quality improvements.

Because of what the CMA found, it’s now launched a full investigation.

The main issues the market study found are:

  • The average cost of organising a funeral is between £3,000 and £5,000, and the price of the essential elements has increased by more than two-thirds in the last 10 years, That’s almost three times the rate of inflation. Worryingly, this means that a funeral would cost those on the lowest incomes nearly 40% of their annual outgoings. That’s more than they spend on food, clothing and energy combined.

  • You could save £1,000 of funeral costs by looking at local options. However, if you’re organising a funeral for a loved one, you probably won’t be in the right mind to shop around. This makes it easier for some funeral directors to charge higher prices. On top of this, prices are also often not available online, which makes it difficult to compare options.

  • Some smaller funeral directors tried to keep their prices low. However, other providers – the larger chains in particular – have consistently increased their prices. A number of them have now introduced lower cost funeral options, but the CMA says that it doesn’t go far enough to make up for years of above inflation price hikes. The CMA’s evidence also shows that most people who organise a funeral remain extremely vulnerable to exploitation and future rises in charges.

  • Cremations account for 77% of funerals, yet there are limited choices for most people in their local area. Fees charged for a cremation have increased by 84% on average in the past 10 years. That’s more than three times the rate of inflation.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, says: “People mourning the loss of a loved one are extremely vulnerable and at risk of being exploited. We need to make sure that they are protected at such an emotional time, and we’re very concerned about the substantial increases in funeral prices over the past decade.

“We now feel that the full powers of a market investigation are required to address the issues we have found. We also want to hear from people who have experienced poor practices in the sector, so that we can take any action needed to fix these problems.”

The CMA is now consulting and says that they welcome any views on the issues identified in its report by 4th January 2019.

It would also like to hear from people involved in the industry and others, who may have observed instances of poor quality standards in the back-of-house facilities of funeral directors.

Find out more about the  funerals market study here.

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