Quaker Social Action has welcomed the Competition and Markets Authority's legally enforceable Order, but much more action is needed to improve the affordability of funerals.
Following its detailed investigations into the funeral industry over the past three years, the CMA's order came into force on 16 June 2021, with a final implementation deadline of 16 September 2021. UK funeral directors are required to publish all their prices and third party fees both online and in branch. As well as the introduction of a standardised, disaggregated price list, other elements QSA campaigned for are also required, such as displaying a business’s payment terms, including deposit amounts, and any interest and charges for late payment.
The CMA has set out its rationale for taking action, in this blog. Its investigations were prompted by concerns about funeral price rises well above inflation for over a decade, combined with the vulnerability of consumers purchasing a funeral following a bereavement, and the risk of their being exploited. The average cost of a simple funeral in the UK stands at £3,837 (Royal London, 2020).
QSA helped to bring about the CMA's investigation through its Fair Funerals campaign 2014-2018; and QSA has engaged fully with the investigation, providing feedback at every stage of consultation, backed up by detailed (anonymised) evidence from our Down to Earth funeral costs helpline.
Aside from the Order, the outcome of the CMA’s investigation into the funeral sector has been less far-reaching than we had hoped: the final recommendations did not include the creation of price controls, whilst the UK government’s response to the CMA’s recommendation to regulate the industry was to propose a voluntary, co-regulatory approach. However, it is still clear that our engagement with the CMA has had an impact.
Going forward, we hope that the improved transparency of funeral prices will lead to increased ‘shopping around’ by people purchasing a funeral, and that this in turn will create a downward pressure on prices.