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CMA to investigate fast-rising funeral costs

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The Competition and Markets Authority will carry out a full market investigation into funeral providers, after an initial report highlighted concerns on large price hikes, hitting people at their most vulnerable.

The sector has seen above-inflation price rises for well over a decade – both for funeral director services and crematoria services. The CMA said these price rises were not justified by cost increases or quality improvements.

It found that people generally spend between £3,000 and £5,000 organising a funeral, and the price of the essential elements has increased by more than two-thirds in the last 10 years, almost 3x the rate of inflation. Organising a funeral would now cost those on the lowest incomes nearly 40% of their annual outgoings, more than they spend on food, clothing and energy combined.

The interim report said competition was not always working effectively. While customers could save money by shopping around, few felt inclined to do so at a time of significant distress. This made it easier for some funeral directors to charge higher prices. Prices usually weren’t available online.

It said larger chains in particular had implemented policies of consistently high year-on-year price increases. While a number of these had introduced lower cost funeral options, there were still limited choices for most people in their local area and fees charged by crematoria have increased by 84% on average in the past 10 years, more than 3x the rate of inflation.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “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.”

Gordon Swan of funeral plan provider Golden Charter said: “Families need as wide a choice as possible when deciding on the funeral for their loved ones and the issue of local monopolies is a serious one.

“Independent funeral directors are generally less expensive than the major corporate groups and are committed to keeping costs down while delivering the personal service that families value.The CMA’s investigation is very much needed in a market where people are often vulnerable and action to make prices more transparent will help ease the stress of coping with the loss of a loved one.”

The CMA called for those who have experience poor quality standards from funeral directors to respond on the funerals market study page.

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