Photo Above: Darryl Smith, General Manager Funeral Division

Friday, February 21, 2020

  • Local funeral director Heart of England Co-operative Funeralcare was the first Funeral Director in the UK to sign up the new 2020 Fair Funerals pledge committing to transparent pricing practices and payment terms
  • Funeral industry under pressure as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) conducts a full inquiry into the sector
  • Average debt taken on by those who struggle with funeral costs has increased by 14% since 2018

Local funeral director Heart of England Co-operative Funeralcare has committed to providing transparent pricing by signing the Fair Funerals pledge. The pledge has been relaunched by the charity Quaker Social Action amid ongoing concerns at the scale of price rises and the behaviour of some funeral directors in the sector, with the Competition and Markets Authority currently conducting a full scale inquiry.

The average cost of a funeral in the UK has soared in recent years leaving many families thousands of pounds in debt. According to Royal London, the average simple funeral now stands at £3,785. Last year the CMA stated that the essential elements of organising a funeral have increased by 6% each year – twice the inflation rate – for the last 14 years.

Upon the launch of the investigation last year, the CMAiii accused some funeral directors of taking advantage by charging high prices at a time when customers were vulnerable. It said the reluctance of firms to disclose clear prices, including online, and to provide comprehensive information on the quality and range of services made it hard for people to compare funeral directors. The CMA has since reported that half of the funeral director websites they audited did not contain price information.

Quaker Social Action, which provides the only UK-wide helpline for people struggling with funeral costs, has relaunched the Fair Funerals pledge to encourage funeral directors to address the national funeral poverty crisis from within the industry itself.

The relaunched Fair Funerals pledge provides customers with an online tool to check whether their local funeral director is committed to helping them find a funeral within their means, ensuring they are open about the price of their services, including any third party costs, any deposit required and when the final balance is due.

“As part of the Heart of England Co-operative, an independent regional co-operative business, we have been at the forefront of looking out for our client families not only by keeping our costs at a reasonable level, but also by providing all of our pricing both online and freely available from any of our 14 funeral homes locally” said Darryl Smith, General Manager. “We were one of the first co-operatives to sign the original Fair Funerals pledge back in June 2015 and we are especially proud to be the first to sign up for the renewed pledge in 2020”

Lindesay Mace, manager of QSA’s funeral poverty service Down to Earth, said:

“Last year Royal London reported that the average debt taken on by those who struggle with funeral costs had increased by 14% since 2018. We frequently support clients who are confused and unclear about quotes they have been given; what costs are for, whether third party fees are included or simply what the total will be, having been told they will only get something in writing after the funeral. Clearly much more needs to be done and so the Fair Funerals pledge is continuing its activity as part of Quaker Social Action’s Down to Earth service. We’re very happy that Heart of England Co-operative Funeralcare has signed.”

Richard, who recently organised a funeral, said:

“The most important thing is the costs are transparent so the bereaved family can clearly understand what costs are needed … and that wasn’t my experience to start with. The first company I contacted was prompting me to sort out the date and get everything arranged and I felt they were just skirting over the costs and it wasn’t clear how much it would be. When I eventually got the quote it was more than I thought. That’s the key point; there shouldn’t be any hidden costs.”

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