Heart of England reassures pre-paid plan customers following national report on industry
Darryl Smith, Funeral General Manager
The General Manager of The Co-operative Funerals has moved to reassure pre-paid funeral plan customers of its fixed price guarantee following a damning report highlighting the practice among some unscrupulous providers.
Darryl Smith, General Manager of The Heart of England Co-operative Society, which operates a network of thirteen funeral homes in Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, stressed that all of their clients who have taken out a Heart of England Co-operative Funerals plan which guarantees the funeral price at the time of purchase have nothing to worry about, despite the much publicised rising costs of funerals.
It follows a report from Fairer Finance – a consumer group which said thousands of people across the UK who have taken out pre-paid plans could leave their relatives with bills, paying for services which were not factored into the original quote.
Although The Co-operative Funerals fared well in the report Mr Smith deemed some areas misleading as it incorrectly factors in features such as a wake, or a headstone, as part of a pre-paid plan.
Mr Smith said: “I don’t think many people would expect a wake or a headstone to be a part of a funeral plan.
“For us and for most other funeral directors it’s about the funeral service, for example elements such as our professional services, the coffin, the hearse and the limousines, etc. The only thing which a consumer may think would be a given, but which is generally not offered, is the purchase of the grave and this is purely because of the differing prices of burial plots locally.
“For example a plot in one area could be significantly more expensive than another for various reasons, much of which is under the control of the local authority or local parish. Also if you’re from one area but wish to be buried in another area that can lead to additional costs, sometimes as much as double the original fee.”
He added: “To reassure our clients and families, the money invested with us are held in individual whole of life insurance policies. I would like to think that we are a highly trusted and respected local business as we have been in existence since 1832 and are a member of both the Funeral Planning Authority and the National Association of Funeral Directors – both of which exist to look after the consumer interests.
“We are extremely transparent with our prices – all are advertised on our website and in our brochures and we have long advised consumers planning a funeral to be wary of any funeral director that isn’t as transparent with their costs.”
Mr Smith said he believed the 70-page report is pushing for regulation across the industry.
He said: “We would welcome regulation if it is in the best interest of the consumer, giving them another layer of protection and no doubt peace of mind.
“The only thing I would be concerned about is that this could potentially result in a price increase across the industry to cover the costs of the regulation, any enforcement, and the training or qualifications need to become an approved seller.
“That said, would most of us rather have a funeral plan that is safe and costs a little more, or a plan that could have come from an unscrupulous provider who leaves us with nothing?
“We have every confidence in our offering, our price structure and our guarantee but if the general consensus is that more should be done by funeral providers such as ourselves then we’d of course be happy to oblige.”