To mark the one year anniversary of the Fair Funerals pledge we conducted a review of its impact and explore how it could be developed and improved.
What is the pledge?
Many people find it difficult to find a funeral within their means. This is made harder still by the number of funeral directors who don’t always make their prices open and visible. So we launched the Fair Funerals pledge, asking funeral directors to make a voluntary commitment to:
- Recognise funerals can be expensive and many people struggle with the cost.
- Make their most affordable funeral package visible to the public, including third party costs.
- Charge clear prices for goods and services so people know what they're buying. Communicate prices in initial conversations and prominently display full price lists.
What have funeral directors done differently since signing?
We wanted to know how signing the pledge had changed the business practices of signatories. We sent an email to all signatories asking them what changes they’d made since signing. Of the responses we received:
20% told us they hadn’t done anything differently since signing because they were already adhering to the pledge.
75% told us they had changed their practices in connection to signing the pledge.
Are funeral directors sticking to the pledge?
We wanted to check whether signatories were abiding by the pledge. Since launching the pledge, we have been careful to communicate its voluntary nature and that we are not in a position to guarantee that pledge signatories are adhering to its requirements. However, the credibility of the pledge is predicated on our ability to state with confidence that funeral directors take their commitment seriously.
We randomly selected 10% of pledge signatories and conducted mystery shopping over the phone.
The majority of funeral directors (68%) offered their most affordable package without being prompted. The same number were willing to break down costs. A quarter failed to do so.
There is still work to be done by funeral directors to make their most affordable options visible and help people on low incomes find funerals within their budget.
Next steps taken by Fair Funerals
We see the necessity of making funeral directors aware that they did not meet the requirements of the pledge. We contact funeral directors who did not comply, reminding them of their pledge commitment and making them aware that continued non-compliance would lead to their removal from the pledge.
We see the benefit of mystery shopping and anonymous scrutiny, so we will conduct annual mystery shopping to check knowledge of and adherence to the pledge.
How did signatories hear about the pledge?
When companies signed the pledge we asked them how they had heard about it.
58% of funeral directors came to the pledge through the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). SAIF demonstrated a real commitment to encouraging sign up among their members, and this was very effective. Since launching the pledge, SAIF and many of the independent companies they represent have taken progressive action to increase price transparency and promote practices which meet the needs of bereaved people on low incomes.
A significant number of signatories (18%) heard about the pledge through the media. The pledge has received a high level of media coverage since it launched and this has helped to raise awareness of and support for the pledge within the funeral industry. Many funeral directors have themselves made excellent use of local media to promote themselves as signatories of the pledge.
We found that when one funeral director signed up in a geographical area, very often others would follow suit. Our interactive map of signatories has helped to encourage this ripple effect among funeral directors. Funeral directors are often aware of what their local competitors are doing. This represents an opportunity for best practice on transparency and affordability to replicate itself geographically.
The future - an updated Pledge
We published our findings to demonstrate the achievements of the pledge, but also highlight that work is yet to be done. We have ambitions to grow the membership further. Our aim is having a majority of funeral directors signed up.
We see this as our contribution to a significant transformation in price transparency within the funeral industry.
To that end, we revamped the pledge. The pledge now asks funeral directors:
- To recognise that funerals can be expensive and many people struggle with the cost.
- To help people to find funerals that are within their means.
- To be open about their most affordable options, including third party costs:
- in initial conversations
- within their price lists
- on their website.
This enhanced pledge was signed by Coop Funeralcare, significantly increasing the number of signatories to 1,620, representing a third of the UK industry.