Unjustified funeral price hikes for vulnerable people trigger 'major' funeral market probe

29 November 2018

The competition watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says consumers have been subject to above-inflation price hikes for over a decade.

As a result, the government body has announced it intends to use its full powers to launch a market investigation carried out by an independent group of CMA panel members.

The CMA first announced in May that is was launching an investigation into the funeral market  to examine whether information provided by funeral directors on prices and services is clear enough for consumers.

Its preliminary results have found that people pay two-thirds more now, typically between £3,000 and £5,000 organising funerals, than they did a decade ago. The average funeral now costs £4,271.

This increase is three times the rate of general inflation. Prices as measured by CPI inflation have grown by 25% in the past decade. Meanwhile, average funeral director prices have increased by 68% and crematoria fees have grown by 84%.

The CMA says that consumers could save thousands by shopping around when looking for a funeral. But it says unscrupulous funeral directors take advantage of vulnerable bereaved families and charge higher prices.

A lack of online pricing is also an issue.

It says smaller funeral providers typically keep prices low, but bigger chains in particular consistently hike prices year on year. It says low-cost options that these chains have introduced “don’t go far enough to make up for the years of above-inflation price hikes”.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, comments: “People mourning the loss of a loved one are extremely vulnerable and at risk of being exploited. We need to make sure that they are protected at such an emotional time, and we’re very concerned about the substantial increases in funeral prices over the past decade.

“We now feel that the full powers of a market investigation are required to address the issues we have found. We also want to hear from people who have experienced poor practices in the sector so that we can take any action needed to fix these problems.”

Responding to the CMA announcement, Pippa Wicks, deputy chief executive for the Co-op, one of the UK's largest funeral services providers, comments: “We have worked closely with the CMA throughout their market study, and note their proposal to begin a market investigation.

“Over the last three years we have started to tackle funeral affordability by reducing prices on our most affordable funerals and introducing new choices for our clients. Through this period we have seen an increasing number of families choosing lower cost options, and we are committed to continuing to provide even more affordable choices.

“However we recognise that there is still more to do and we welcome any measures from the CMA that will protect families and ensure that they have access to high standards of funeral care at an affordable price.”


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

There are plenty of other things rising faster than inflation year after year. Co-op can do a basic cremation funeral for £1400 with no frills, if you want the frills then you can afford them or don't order them. I have a bespoke funeral plan with Co-op for £1,150 as I will be buried in spare space above my dad, I bought a new double plot which I can sell back for price paid, if I used it instead of my dad's plot it would be £175 more but leave 2 wasted spaces when grave plots are scarce. Try a DIY cremation, take coffin to crem in an estate car or van. People should plan their funeral earlier in life by putting a little aside each month in an account, have one less drink or miss a side dish on takeaway to save for it. Don't leave everything to those left behind to sort out, at least my sister only has to tell Co-op I've gone and they do the rest with nothing to pay. People always find the money for flash weddings and holidays so why not your funeral. If you failed to provide for funeral state should only provide body bag and take body to an industrial incinerator that burns waste body parts and no more, teach responcibility.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Funeral Directors will never run out of buisness that is why they are rich, the Government are allowing them to rip of the public and the same applies to local Councils and the Church, Berevement means nothing to them their ownl sorrow is that they havent squeezed more money out of people

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