CMA Report Published

21st August 2020 | Reports

In March 2019, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) set out to investigate concerns it had about the funeral services sector following a market study into the effectiveness of competition in the sector.

The investigation has identified a number of issues:

  • Due to the inherent emotional distress people experience when arranging a funeral, they understandably tend not to spend time comparing providers. They typically choose to use a funeral director that has been recommended or is familiar to them. For crematoria, people generally select one that is closest to them geographically.
  • Pricing and product information is not provided consistently by funeral directors in a way that allows people to compare different offers.
  • The fees charged by funeral directors and crematoria increased at a rate well above inflation for at least a decade.
  • Most people believe that funeral directors are regulated, but that is not the case in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The investigation found that, although many funeral directors meet good standards, some are providing unacceptably low levels of care of the deceased.
  • Regarding crematoria, there are high barriers to entry in the form of the planning regime, as well as building and operating costs, meaning that crematoria are generally few and far between. Most people have little or no choice about which crematorium to use as there is often only one option within a reasonable distance.

The CMA’s provisional conclusions therefore have 3 elements:

  • Setting out clearly and fully in today’s provisional report the problems that the CMA has identified in its investigation.
  • Identifying the kind of remedies most likely to address these problems, including the introduction of price controls, whilst recognising that coronavirus inevitably means that some of these cannot be designed and implemented in the short term.
  • Implementing a set of practical and effective steps that can be taken immediately in order to protect people, such as requiring funeral directors and crematoria to be transparent in their pricing.

The CMA has provisionally decided that, in the short term, it will require all funeral directors and crematoria to provide customers with information on, and the prices of, the various services and packages they offer. This will go a long way to ensuring people have easily accessible information on services and costs to help them decide which type of funeral arrangement they require.

The CMA proposes to continue active monitoring of the funerals sector with an obligation on funeral directors and crematoria to provide the CMA with key financial data every quarter.

Other proposals include a provisional recommendation that the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland establish an inspection and registration regime to monitor the quality of funeral director services. A similar regime already exists in Scotland.

View the full report here.

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