UK funeral industry to face investigation

It is the poorest who are being the most affected by high funeral costs, with some having to spend as much as a third of their salary to cover burial or cremation costs.

By DANIEL TANNENBAUM
June 20, 2018 10:03
2 minute read.
UK funeral industry to face investigation

Funeral (illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

 
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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that there is going to be an investigation into the cost of funerals in the UK. The measures are to ensure that people are not exposed to sky high funeral costs and avoid being pressured into buying a funeral plan.

 “People can understandably be very emotionally vulnerable when planning a funeral," the CMA’s Daniel Gordon, said at the announcement. “We therefore think it is important that, at what can be a particularly challenging time, the process is made as easy as possible.”

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Another concern for the watchdog is that it is the poorest who are being the most affected by high funeral costs, with some having to spend as much as  a third of their salary to cover burial or cremation costs. The CMA wants to make funeral costs fairer for everyone, and ensure that there is greater transparency when it comes to the prices and services of funerals.

The increasing costs of funerals

The funeral industry has grown dramatically in the last decade, worth now to be an estimated £2 billion, and the cost of funerals has grown dramatically too. In the UK, the average funeral in the UK will now cost around £3,800 and is expected to double by 2026.

In 2017 alone, there was a staggering 200,000 pre-paid funeral plans taken out  - but this has attracted criticism. Not all plans cover the entire funeral costs, with some households having to ‘top up’ as much as £2,000.

A funeral plan covers essentials such as the funeral directors fees, a coffin and Hearse vehicle but most plans do not include minister fees, burial plots, doctor’s fees and flowers.

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By comparison, the average Jewish funeral in the UK costs a maximum of £3,300, according to the Jewish burial society. Some other communities quote as high as £8,000 or £14,000, citing moving the body within 24 hours as a large expense.

However, the Jewish community are accustomed to paying for burial fees through their annual synagogue membership from their early 20s or 30s, equivalent to a funeral plan.

The watchdog said it will be looking into regulating the funeral plan industry to avoid mis-selling policies and pressure selling vulnerable people.

A spokesman from Perfect Funeral Plans commented: “We welcome new regulation to the industry. In the case of funeral plans, there is a need for greater transparency so policyholders know exactly what they are getting.

Funeral plans are an anti-poverty measure, helping people offset the cost of a funeral in monthly installments. And it should be just that, with no extra fees and no surprises.”

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