Families living in areas with few cremation services are being stung by higher cremation costs, thanks to a monopoly effect.
The national average cremation cost is now £784, according to funeral service price comparison Beyond. The 10 most expensive services, however, charge £1,070, on average 14.4 miles from their nearest competitor. This lack of local competition is, in effect, creating regional monopolies.
This news comes as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced a crackdown on unscrupulous funeral plan providers, a growing issue facing retirees considering end-of-life plans. The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has also launched a separate probe into the funeral market.
Beyond found that when a crematorium has no competition within 7.5 miles, prices tend to shoot up considerably. As cremations count for nearly 80% of all funerals, this is leaving many families facing high costs due to a lack of market competition.
Of the 20 most expensive crematoriums in the country, all but one of them are owned by a firm called Dignity, with the remaining one owned by Parkgrove. See the table below for the 20 most expensive crematoriums in the UK:
|Crematorium||Distance to nearest crematorium (miles)||Price of cremation|
|Surrey & Sussex (Crawley)||18||£1,070|
|The Counties (Northampton)||10.5||£1,070|
|Heart of England (Nuneaton)||9.5||£1,070|
|Randalls Park (Leatherhead)||7.5||£1,070|
|Lancaster & Morecambe||18.5||£1,055|
|Charnock Richard (Chorley)||8||£999|
|Exeter & Devon||4.5||£999|
|East Lancashire (Bury)||3.5||£999|
Source: Beyond, June 2018
James Dunn, co-founder of Beyond, comments: “For far too long, not enough has been done about spiralling cremation costs. Mourners are being exploited, and it’s fantastic news that the CMA has launched its probe into this sector.
“In everyday life, it can pay to shop around for a better deal. In death, however, it’s not always possible to go elsewhere and consumers need to be protected when providers can essentially charge what they like.
“Prices should not be allowed to spiral out of control in areas where there is no competition. No provider should be able to cash in on grief in this way.”
A spokesperson for Dignity says: “People tell us that the most important factor in organising a cremation is being able to make a booking that allows them sufficient time to pay their respects to loved ones.
"Our fee structure gives customers and their families a number of choices at different price levels. Dignity crematoriums include components that our competitors often charge separately for, such as legal and practical necessities.
"Compared on a price per minute basis, Dignity is cheaper than the majority of local authorities and private providers. Moreover, Dignity offers a direct cremation service in all of these locations for which the cost can be as low as £499.”