In Brief

Funeral costs: are grieving families ripped off?

Competitions and Markets Authority opens inquiry into pricing of funeral services

The competition watchdog is to launch an investigation into funeral services in the UK amid fears grieving families are being ripped off.

The Competition and Markets Authority has raised concerns about inflation-busting prices and a lack of transparency, especially among larger funeral and crematorium operators.

The costs of a funeral have increased by 6% each year for the past 14 years, twice the rate of inflation. As a result, says The Guardian, direct cremations – a no-frills option with no ceremony and no mourners present, where the body is collected, cremated and the ashes are returned afterwards – “are becoming more popular”.

According to analysis by SunLife, people typically spend between £3,000 and £5,000 organising a funeral, with the average price of the core elements now standing at £4,271. That represents a 68% increase in funeral director prices over the last ten years.

“The intervention of the regulator follows increased scrutiny from politicians and campaigners worried about customers being exploited,” says The Times. “Price comparison websites have also been raising awareness of opaque pricing.”

Families “struggled to find clear prices and details of services online, and were unable to shop around”, says the BBC.

The CMA “has the power to make legally binding orders requiring changes to be made”, if they are found to be necessary, says Money Saving Expert.

The funeral market remains fragmented and largely unregulated but is dominated by two chain services, Dignity and Co-op Funeralcare.

Amid the threat of official intervention, the two companies have embarked on a price war. Dignity’s share price has fallen by 25% in the past four months.

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