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8 May 2021

Funeral directors still not being clear about their prices

A quarter of funeral directors' websites don't disclose pricing information

Funeral directors are still not disclosing the prices of their services transparently, despite being put on notice by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that changes were needed, Which? research has found.

The CMA launched an investigation into the funeral market in 2018 amid concerns over soaring funeral costs.

In its final report, published in December 2020, the regulator proposed a list of remedies for the sector which acknowledged that funeral directors should make their prices clearer.

But when Which? looked at the websites of 112 funeral directors in February 2021, it found that a quarter (29) of them didn't display their prices online.

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'Serious concerns' about the funeral industry

Following its investigation, the CMA said it had 'serious concerns' about the sector, but stopped short of introducing price controls. It said the impact of the pandemic meant this option could not be developed.

The CMA is currently consulting on the details of new requirements for the sector, which it is proposing will come into effect in September 2021.

The average price of a basic funeral now stands at £4,184, according to insurer SunLife. That's 128% higher than it was 16 years ago, when SunLife started gathering this data.

It predicts that prices will reach an average of £5,044 by 2025.

Lack of transparency prevents cost comparison

Many funeral directors don't disclose their prices until you call them or go into branch, which makesit difficult for people to compare costs.

Even when funeral directors do display their prices online, there is no consistency in the way this information is presented.

Of the 112 funeral directors we looked at, 40 showed package costs with no cost breakdown, whereas 18 had price lists but no package costs.

Concerningly, even those signed up to the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), weren't always transparent with their costs. In accordance with the NAFD's Code, these members are expected to disclose prices online. But of the NAFD members Which? analysed, a third (11) didn't.

As part of its remedies for the sector, the CMA wants standardised price lists and additional option price lists to be made clearly available in funeral directors' branches as well as online, if they have websites.

A spokesperson for the NAFD said: 'We are reviewing the CMA's draft Order in respect of online pricing to make sure we align our online member directory capabilities to the Order. We are likely to introduce enforcement on those provisions of our new Code in September, at the same time as the CMA's requirements become law.'

What's next for the funeral market?

The CMA has said that a remedies package will be introduced by legal order and that the statutory deadline for this being made is 17 June 2021.

Measures include letting those arranging a funeral know in advance the price they will pay and the terms of their business, and what services they will be getting for that price.

The CMA has said it will be keeping a close eye on the sector to ensure the remedies are properly implemented.

Which? believes that a lack of price transparency from funeral directors so far suggests this monitoring will be essential to ensure better outcomes for consumers.

'Organising a funeral is already a stressful time for families - that stress shouldn't be compounded by the fear of paying inflated prices,' said Jenny Ross, Editor of Which? Money.

'Our research shows that many funeral directors are simply not showing their costs transparently. To avoid more vulnerable people paying more than they should, funeral directors must do the right thing and be up front about the cost of their services.'

First featured in May's Which? Money magazine

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