A UK regulator has “serious concerns” about the funeral sector, including price transparency, issuing “provisional remedies” for key problems faced by customers.
The Conduct and Markets Authority (CMA) began carrying out an investigation into the sector in August.
Its final report details changes to be made in order to support customers when choosing a service, and to “place the sector under greater public scrutiny”, the CMA said.
These changes include the obligation for directors and crematoriums to be upfront about prices so that customers can make informed decisions.
This information must be provided prior to the customer agreeing to a purchase so they are aware of how much they will be charged and “key terms of business” – such as whether they will be required to pay a deposit – before it's too late to back out, the regulator said.
In addition, funeral directors must be upfront about their own business, financial and commercial interests. Bribery payments that encourage hospitals, care homes or hospices to refer customers to particular funeral directors will be banned.
The CMA also advised the UK government to carry out its own regular inspection and registrations, to independently monitor the quality of services.
Although many of these remedies were outlined in August, the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic prevented some of these remedies from being implemented right away, the CMA said.
However, it will continue to monitor the sector through information provided by service directors and crematoria
It will also “continue to discuss” the sector and decide whether to relaunch a full investigation further down the line.
The CMA called this “a first step in the establishment of a broader regulatory regime for funeral services.”
“Organising a funeral is often very distressing and people can be especially vulnerable during this time,” said CMA panel inquiry chair Martin Coleman.
“That’s why our remedies are designed to help people make choices that are right for them and ensure they can be confident that their loved one is in good hands.
“The CMA will be keeping a close eye on this sector to make sure our remedies are properly implemented and help it to decide whether further action is necessary when circumstances return to a more steady state.
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