Photo: Darryl Smith, General Manager of the Heart of England Co-operative Society’s Funeral Division

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The boss of The Co-operative Funeralcare in Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire has welcomed Treasury proposals to make funeral service providers in the UK more accountable, giving more protection to consumers.

Darryl Smith, who heads a network of 13 funeral homes under The Co-operative Funeralcare, said he gave his full support to any government measures which cracked down on unscrupulous providers using misleading sales tactics on vulnerable customers taking out pre-paid plans, potentially  leaving themselves or their grieving families thousands of pounds out of pocket because there is a shortfall between the amount they were originally quoted and the actual cost.

The move will mean regulation for the industry for the first time in its history.

As figures show demand for pre-paid plans has grown by almost 200 per cent in the past 12 years, with 177,000 plans taken out last year alone, a Treasury spokesman revealed there had been ‘widespread concerns around the conduct of funeral providers’ and the high-pressure ways in which they urged customers to take out plans.

Darryl said: “We welcome the Treasury’s proposals to crack down on unscrupulous funeral service providers in the UK. By the very nature of our work we are dealing with people when they are at their most vulnerable. They can sometimes be elderly and in most cases are making enquiries into something that they’ve never had to deal with before. And of course planning for your own funeral is arguably one of the most difficult situations in life, and with the lack of regulations it can be a complete minefield.

“The unscrupulous few in our industry means some families have been left out of pocket, which of course is the one thing pre-paid plans are designed to prevent.”

Darryl added: “A recent survey we undertook ourselves on general funeral services revealed great inconsistencies even locally in prices and service offerings, and we know this is just the tip of the iceberg in Britain.”

The news comes as the Competitions and Markets Authority revealed that the essential costs of a funeral had increased by six per cent every year for the past 14 years.

Under the new regulations, those found in breach could lose their right to sell plans. They could also face fines and even criminal charges.

Funeral service providers are able to choose whether or not to sign up to an industry regulator. Those who choose not to are not bound by any industry rules designed to maintain high standards and quality of service to customers.

If given the go-ahead the Treasury’s new proposals would allow the Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates the conduct of 58,000 financial services firms, to regulate the funerals sector, ensuring customers are given greater protection, with access to the Financial

Ombudsman Service.

Darryl added: “By investing in a pre-paid plan, which with us can be paid over 12, 24, 36 and 60 months, clients can protect themselves against the ever-increasing costs of funerals, with our guarantee that our prices will stay the same as they were at the start of the plan.

Their families will also be safe in the knowledge their loved ones’ funerals will be just the way they wanted them – whether a cremation or burial – down to the very last detail.”

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