Funeral company pushes for sector regulation
A need for regulation in the Funeral Planning industry has been put forward by one of the UK’s largest funeral companies.
Working earlier this year in collaboration with Fairer Finance, Dignity put forward its own approach in how the market could be improved to meet consumer needs.
This formed part of a report entitled “Is the prepaid funeral planning market working well for consumers” which as well as highlighting the positives of the current system, drew on its problems with both consumer protection and conduct.
One of the key issues drawn on was the lack of safeguards and scrutiny within the sector, highlighted as a particular concern given the vulnerability of the target market.
Acknowledging the issues within the sector and the problems highlighted in the report, Dignity drew on a number of key concerns that needed to be addressed. These were largely in relation to a lack of standardisation, particularly in terms of sales and marketing practices, the terminology used, and information provided to consumers.
Whilst the company, along with others, is striving for transparency and greater safeguards, it recognised that the current measures do not go far enough. This formed the basis of their call for regulation.
At present, providers can choose not to apply for the oversight of the existing regulator – the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA). As well as being able to apply for a different scheme with less stringent rules, they can also operate without any oversight at all.
In order to protect consumers and encourage a standardised level of practice throughout the sector, Dignity suggests that the following measures should be implemented:
- Statutory powers to be awarded to the Funeral Plan regulator in order to police and enforce good practice
- Vid the regulator, all plan providers should be compelled to obtain a license to trade
- Acceptance of the Treating Customers Fairly principles and financial promotion rules. This aims to deliver the six customer outcomes which the Financial Conduct Authority expects TCF to achieve.
- Clear declaration of affiliation as opposed to sites which purport that they are comparing providers
- Increased oversight from the Information Commissioners Office to eliminate breaches of Data Protection and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Following publication, the report was sent to the Treasury, the Competition & Markets Authority, the Information Commissioners Office as well as the FCA.