CMA Research Reveals Exploitative Funeral Sector

Six months ago, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a market study into the funeral sector following concerns that prices have been unfairly escalating for too long.

The initial research has indicated epidemic above inflation price rises for over a decade. These rises have applied for both the crematoria services and funeral director services.

The average spend per funeral is now between £3,000 and £5,000. The CMA pointed out that those on low incomes could therefore be spending up to 40% of their annual salary on a funeral for their loved one.

These prices have increased by two-thirds in the past decade and is now three times the rate of inflation. The report has claimed that many people feel as thought they should pay these prices in order to show their deceased the respect; reasoning that could imply the industry is exploiting the bereft in their time of need.

Interestingly, the report has found that smaller firms have tried to keep their prices low, possibly in a bid to compete with larger firms. In comparison, the larger firms have adopted a consistent strategy of year-on-year price increases.

Finally, the report looked at the exploitative nature of crematoriums in the current market. In 2018, they are used for 77% of funerals. Unbelievably, over the past ten years, cremation prices have increased by 84%, three times 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.”

Steve Murrells, Co-op Group Chief Executive, said: “For too long the industry kept putting prices up. People felt obliged to spend it – they kind of felt it represented the importance of that person’s life.

“We think this market needs regulation. This is a caring market that needs to provide the best service at the most difficult of circumstances,” he said. “You or I could open up a funeral business tomorrow with no qualifications or regulation. It’s crazy.

“I can’t put right the way the market ran itself in the past. It’s important for us to lead in this space now though, because it’s the right thing to do. We’ve been bringing prices down and making them more affordable.”

Those organising a funeral are extremely vulnerable and at the start of their bereavement. The findings of the CMA will be welcome and hopefully new regulations will ensure that exploitation of people dealing with an already stressful situation is minimised.

Are you aware of people that have struggled to afford the funeral costs of a loved one? What should be done to avoid exploitation in the future?

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