The Co-Operative Funeralcare Welcomes Investigation into Price Hikes in Funerals Industry

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The boss of The Co-operative Funerals in Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire has raised concerns about a report calling for an investigation into huge hikes in the cost of funerals over the past 14 years as not being fully representative of the funeral industry.

Darryl Smith, General Manager of The Heart of England Co-operative Society’s Funeral Division, which operates a network of 13 funeral homes in the area, said the interim report did not fully reflect the good value being offered by independent providers.

He said that while the government-run Competition and Markets Authority, which works to promote market competition for the benefit of consumers in the UK and abroad, has rightly exposed the excessive pricing structure adopted by some providers, all funeral directors are not the same.

Darryl said: “While headlines from the CMA report certainly grabbed attention, I hope that as the CMA goes ahead with a full investigation it will look more closely at the contribution of independent funeral providers and the good value and service which they offer.

“As a regional funeral service provider and not part of a large national group, we have worked hard to keep costs down for our client families while offering them a respectful, dignified and compassionate service. Indeed, the cost of our average funeral has risen by just £410 over the past 15 years – an increase of just 1.6% a year, which is a far cry from the year-on-year above-inflation increases which the CMA report found many larger providers were charging.”

Earlier this year the CMA launched an initial investigation into the funerals industry following increasing concerns about the substantial increase in costs which has seen the cost of even basic funerals rise by six per cent year on year for the past 14 years.

The investigation found that many providers, particularly large chains, had indeed implemented consistently high year-on-year price increases and Chief Executive of the CMA Andrea Coscelli warned that people mourning the loss of a loved one are extremely vulnerable and at risk of being exploited.

It also criticised a lack of transparency in pricing, and highlighted the fact that poorer households were hit disproportionately harder.

Darryl said the average cost of a funeral organised by The Co-operative Funerals in Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire was £3,755 compared to the £4,300 average cost quoted in the CMA report.

This comes against a background of £8.5 million investment by The Co-operative Funerals in its facilities in Nuneaton, Rugby, Coventry, Leamington Spa, Daventry, Hinckley, and Kenilworth over the past 10 years.

Moreover, the prices for its services are completely transparent, with the cost of each individual element of a funeral, from the coffin to the hearse and the disbursements all being quoted on its website, including the cost of different local crematoria and cemeteries, and an indication of typical costs for different styles of funerals.

Darryl said that there were steps consumers could take to protect themselves and their families against funeral costs which continue to rise year on year.

He said: “Price increases in the funeral industry have long been a topic of discussion as costs have risen every year in more than a decade.

“While there has been little we as an industry could do to avoid rising costs – much of the increase comes from the rise in disbursements such as the cemetery or crematorium fees, which are outside the control of the funeral director – there are things which can be done to help alleviate the cost burden.”

To avoid feeling under pressure in front of a funeral director Darryl recommended that consumers shop around online before setting foot inside a funeral home although he conceded that they might not always be in the right frame of mind to do so.

“Ideally  all funeral directors should display their prices on their websites so that – potential customers – who will already be physically and emotionally drained – know what they are facing and are not feeling uncomfortable or under pressure when face to face with someone trying to sell them a funeral –that is what we do.”

For those priced out of the market for a conventional more traditional type of funeral one option could be unattended funerals – simple direct cremation services with no ceremony and no mourners attending. This simplistic service is relatively inexpensive when compared with the more traditional type of funeral by dispensing with the need for many of the items that add cost to a traditional funeral, such as ceremonial vehicles, funeral directors staff, an officiant to conduct the service and other extras such as flowers.

And for those wishing to plan ahead pre-paid funeral plans are worthy of consideration. The plans allow clients to spread the cost of the funeral over a number of years and to protect themselves against rising costs, only paying the amount laid out at the start of the plan, with no threat of paying extra to cover inflation, rising disbursement fees or other increases.