Competition watchdog still has ‘serious concerns’ about UK funeral sector

The UK’s competition watchdog said it “continues to have serious concerns” about the funeral sector as it unveiled a number of proposals aimed at helping customers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) called for an obligation for funeral directors and crematorium operators to disclose prices more clearly, to let customers know pricing in advance, and for the Government to launch inspections to monitor the quality of funeral director services.

However, it stressed that the background of the pandemic means that some remedies it may have pursued, including to control prices, could not be developed.

Its final report into the sector concluded that the CMA should consider whether a further investigation of the sector is needed when conditions are more stable.

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The regulator also said that customers should be informed about a funerals director’s other commercial interests, and some practices, such as payments to incentivise hospitals or care homes to refer to specific directors, will be prohibited.

The CMA said it has observed that most customers “find it extremely difficult to engage with the process of purchasing a funeral”.

This is driven by “emotional vulnerability” but also pressure to do the right thing for the deceased, and pressure to make decisions quickly.

CMA panel inquiry chairman Martin Coleman said: “Organising a funeral is often very distressing and people can be especially vulnerable during this time.

“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.”