Covid-19 Put The Kibosh On CMA’s Funeral Market Investigation

The Covid-19 pandemic has seriously impacted on the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) in depth investigation into the funerals sector, a move which was welcomed by the industry as a whole.

The investigation originally sought to examine how customers are treated in a time when they will be vulnerable in a monopolised industry, with concern over escalating funeral costs and lack of clear pricing.

However, reports have indicated that due to the number of tragic deaths since March, there has been an unprecedented increase for the services of funeral providers. This in turn has made it incredibly difficult for CMA to carry out an appropriate investigation and retrieve the data they require from the funeral providers, crematoria operators and local authorities, with CMA saying that it has “significant ramifications for the design and implementation of price controls as a possible remedy”

The circumstances and situation the sector is in has highlighted a serious predicament whereby it has shown that the industry desperately needs reforming but on the other hand the pandemic has also made it difficult for CMA to move forward with their investigation as there are a lot of obstacles to navigate through to get to where they want to be.

The CMA have confirmed that they do not have the legal power to suspend or extend the investigation as some of the proposals or solutions that they have suggested could not be carried out safely during the Covid epidemic.

It has since been reported, in their recommendations report, that once we are in more stable conditions, CMA will look to introduce an additional market investigation.

Martin Coleman, CMA Panel Inquiry Chair said:

“Given the inherently distressing circumstances in which people arrange a funeral, we want to make sure they can be confident that they are not being overcharged and that their loved one is cared for properly – this is what our investigation has focused on”

In April 2019, the CMA launched a full in-depth market inquiry into the funerals sector after concerns over high price rises, a lack of transparency in the industry and exploitation of vulnerable consumers.

With the UK funeral market estimated to be worth around £1billion annually, and with over 600,000 funerals taking place each year (prior to Covid-19), officials were worried about vulnerable consumers who are faced with arranging funerals for loved ones, while grieving themselves. This puts people under immense time pressure so other options are not explored.

This will no doubt be worrying for industry experts who have been concerned about the implications of rising funeral costs on bereaved families who are being left destitute after paying thousands of pounds on funerals for their loved ones.

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