QSA has responded to the CMA’s recent interim report on the UK funeral industry.
The report, which stated serious concern at funeral price increases over the past decade, has led to a consultation on a full-scale market investigation into the industry.
Quaker Social Action’s long-standing authority on the issue of funeral poverty is built on its direct experience of providing the only helpline in the UK for people struggling with funeral costs and running the successful Fair Funerals campaign.
An overview of the response:
- Based on QSA’s experiences of delivering the Down to Earth helpline service, QSA agrees there should be more measures in place to make the funeral market more transparent.
- Many funeral directors are failing to break down and itemise elements of their funeral options online and in person, making it very difficult for customers to compare prices and make informed choices.
- QSA encourages the enforcement of a standardised pricing format which clearly breaks down essential elements, optional elements and third party costs.
- More needs to be done to help people understand how to organise a funeral, with readily available information on what is necessary to do, what is advised and what they may wish to do.
- It is essential that customers are provided with clear information on payment options and plans from the outset. QSA has evidence that this can be unclear and can have detrimental effects on the most vulnerable – in some cases leading to people taking on debt from family and friends. We suspect some borrow from illegal moneylenders.
Changes to regulatory framework
- QSA supports the licensing of funeral directors, though there is a concern that the cost for this could be passed onto customers and thus raise prices further.
- If licensing were to deter lower-cost funeral directors from operating in or entering the market, this could cause an increase in demand for public health funerals.
Establishment of a regulatory body
- Transparency measures alone are unlikely to be sufficient to address the issues raised - there needs to be a more direct intervention in relation to pricing.
- QSA therefore agrees with the suggestion of the establishment of a regulatory body, though thinks that there would need to be a balance between ensuring reasonable standards were adhered to, whilst ensuring the standards were not a deterrent to smaller funeral directors.
- QSA is supportive of the implementation of price caps on the essential elements of a funeral, but also the add-ons that are considered normal, such as viewing, embalming and limousines.