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The Government’s review of the funeral industry in a nutshell

As you know the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have been having a close look at the Funeral Industry in the UK and their findings have finally been released.  Here is my short and candid summary of what I believe they said:

  1. People don’t shop around for funerals because dealing with the death itself is so traumatic (amongst other things), price is not the biggest factor, and, it is not easy to compare like with like.
  2. People value quality over cost but find it difficult to know what that means before the funeral. Once they have met the funeral director they are unlikely to swap.
  3. People often chose funeral directors on a personal recommendation or that the family have used them in the past even if the current owners are different.
  4. They believe that in a properly functioning marketplace funerals would be cheaper and prices are increasing more than they should.
  5. They don’t like the opaque referral arrangements between funeral directors and places like hospices and hospitals etc.
  6. The two big players – Co-op and Dignity – are often significantly more expensive – they estimate by approximately £800 and £1,400 respectively.
  7. Some funeral directors don’t look after the deceased properly and their customers don’t know this and have no way of finding this out.
  8. People chose crematoria on location, family ties and not on price.
  9. Crematoria charges are higher than they would be in a properly functioning marketplace; Private by up to £210 and Local Authority by up to £170.
  10. Introducing competition in the crematoria sector is difficult due to the costs and time it would take to build new premises.
  11. Their investigation was hampered by Covid and they want to keep an eye out and make more amendments if needs be.

So, what is going to happen?

  1. They want to make funeral prices more explicit and easy to compare for: a standard funeral; a direct cremation; any other items. They want the consumer to understand what the final bill will be and what they will get for that money.
  2. They are recommending crematoria will have to be clear about their pricing and if they offer any cheaper time slots.
  3. They want greater disclosure of who owns what, who is ultimately the beneficiary (including price comparison sites), and ‘donations’ to charities such as hospices.
  4. They want to stop the practise of commercial referral arrangements between funeral directors and organisations such care homes, hospitals and other third parties.
  5. They wish to introduce a system where funeral directors are formally registered and inspected by independent accessors.
  6. They want reporting of the number of funerals and revenue by funeral directors with 5 or more branches with more detail from the big guys and the crematoria.

There you go, all done – under 350 words – in less time than it takes to boil a kettle let alone make the tea!

You can read the full detail here:

  • Official Executive Summary (10 Pages)  – click here
  • CMA Full Report and Supporting Docs – click here

Comment: I don’t think the industry came out of this too bad, the recommendations seem fairly reasonable considering all the hoo-ha at the start. Like all industries there are good guys and bad guys, and the government has decided to shine a light on this one, and like any imperfect market – is there a perfect market? – there’s always room for improvement. On the whole I think these recommendations, done correctly, will help to provide a more level playing field, which has to be better for those who offer a top quality service.

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