The FINANCIAL — An annual review of the funerals market, published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), suggests its Funerals Market Investigation Order 2021 is continuing to have a beneficial impact on the costs paid by bereaved relatives when arranging a funeral.
The review – based on submissions from large funeral directors operating in the sector – found that funeral directors operating more than 5 branches charged their customers just over £2,700 for funeral services between 1 September 2022 and 31 August 2023, on average. Whilst this is higher (4%) than the previous year, it does represent a decrease in real terms, once the higher rate of inflation is factored in.
Over the same period, there was a rise in the numbers of people choosing unattended funerals – with the total proportion of these cheaper funerals rising to 11% in 2023 (up from 8% in 2022). This, coupled with previous annual reviews, suggests there is a gradually rising trend amongst bereaved families to opt for remote funeral services, which is likely to be linked to the requirement to conduct unattended funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to reduce costs in response to the rising cost of living.
While it is too early to determine whether the real terms fall in the average cost of a funeral represents a positive downward trend for bereaved families, the CMA is concerned that the average cost of unattended funerals (with revenues reported by funeral directors up 12% in 2023) appears to have risen faster than the rate of inflation. The CMA will continue to keep a close eye on consumer outcomes in this market.
The CMA is stepping up its enforcement work to tackle those funeral and crematorium directors who fail to comply with the Order – with evidence of problems received from customers, charities, and professionals in the sector and through the CMA’s active monitoring suggesting just under 250 funeral directors are failing to comply with the law. Many of these have failed to display the necessary pricing information for funeral or crematorium services – in branch and online.
The CMA has written to each of these firms to remind them of their responsibilities and will escalate its enforcement action should a funeral director continue to breach the law.
“Cost of living pressures means bereaved families are often having to make extremely difficult choices when it comes to arranging funerals for their loved ones’, Adam Land, Senior Director of Remedies at the CMA, said.
“In 2021, after finding prices had been going up above inflation for many years, we changed the law to ensure families have information up front to help them choose the best service which meets their needs. It’s good news that these rules have continued to keep costs lower than they would have been without CMA action.
There is still a minority of funeral and crematorium directors that are failing to comply with the law. They should be under no illusion – we will continue to enforce the rules and anyone breaching them can expect a call from the CMA”, he said.