We at Heart And Soul Funerals think the recently announced investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is long overdue. It will examine whether the information provided by funeral directors on prices and services is clear, transparent and sufficient to enable people to choose the best option for them. They are also going to investigate the cost of cremation, which varies widely across regions, Devon being one of the most expensive places in the UK.
The last government investigation was made on the cost of funerals was published in 2001 by The Office of Fair Trading (OFT). At that time, the main findings were:
“A funeral is a ‘distress’ purchase – people don’t know what to expect, spend little time thinking about their purchase and feel under pressure to sort everything out quickly. People arranging funerals are generally not aware of costs. Once they have entered a funeral director’s premises they rarely make efforts to find the prices offered by other firms. Clear, reliable information is important. The industry often fails to inform consumers about prices and the ownership of the business they are dealing with, which is bad.”
Change has been slow with regard to these. Most people have little idea what they are really paying for when they hire a funeral director. Most funeral directors’ websites don’t give detailed cost breakdowns. For example, does the funeral director make a commission or mark-up on the coffin, flowers, newspaper notices and other things they buy on your behalf and how much is that? These things are usually not clear. So it is difficult to know how much you are actually paying the funeral director. Also this lack of clarity makes it harder to tailor a funeral to your budget.
A few years ago we decided to be transparent about pricing. All our prices are on our website and on a card we give out. We charge our published fees for caring for the person who has died, meetings and making arrangements, and for staff on the day. Everything else that is often marked up, cars, coffin, flowers, orders of service, are charged on to you, the client, at cost. The cremation and doctors fees (known as the disbursements) are always at cost. So you can work out exactly what you are paying for our services. We think this should be an industry standard but we are the only funeral directors in Devon to do this.
Apart from funeral director fees the other main cost of a funeral is burial or cremation. In this country 75% of people are cremated and this is also being investigated by the CMA. The cost of cremation is £999 in Exeter and £945 in
Torquay, having doubled in the last 10 years. Over the same period our average increase in funeral costs is just 50% including the higher cremation fee). In London the cost of cremation at Mortlake and Golders Green is £595 and £695 respectively. There really is no reasonable explanation why people in Devon have to pay so much more.
We don’t claim to be the cheapest funeral director in the area but we are far from the most expensive. We have signed up the Fair Funerals pricing pledge, run by the Quaker Social Action Group. We believe in giving good value for the level of attention and quality of service we give our clients, and we are proud of our level of transparency on pricing. When you choose a funeral director you are trusting them with something very important, hopefully a fairly priced funeral you will be able to remember and cherish as the best it could have been. Choose carefully.