In Depth

Why are funeral costs so high?

Two reviews into industry practices launched after average price doubles in just over a decade

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The Government and a competition watchdog are to launch joint investigations into whether people are getting at fair deal on funerals, amid concerns about soaring costs.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will investigate whether “clear information on prices and services is being provided by the £2bn funeral market and how prices have evolved in the UK”, while the Treasury “is focusing on concerns over pre-paid funeral plans”,  The Times reports.

A study by SunLife estimated the average cost of a UK funeral in 2017 to be almost £3,800 -  more than double the amount listed in the financial services company’s first Cost of Dying report, issued in 2004.

Costs vary greatly across the UK, with funerals in London proving the most expensive at an average of £5,951, while those in Northern Ireland were the cheapest, at £2,982.

These figures do not include discretionary extra costs, which can add thousands of pounds to the cost of a funeral.

Funeral poverty charity Quaker Social Action (QSA) told The Guardian back in 2015 that families had sought their help after being pressured by other funeral directors to pay for extra services. “One woman contacted QSA when she was quoted £7,500 for a funeral by a firm who told her that was standard: the charity were able to find a provider for £1,500 nearby,” according to the newspaper. Another person reported being asked whether they thought their deceased relative “deserved better”.

During an interview with LBC radio’s James O’Brien in May, a former funeral director based in Hampshire said that the cost of funeral care was so high simply because “there is so much profit in it”.

Daniel Gordon, senior director of markets at the CMA, said: “People can understandably be very emotionally vulnerable when planning a funeral. We therefore think it is important that - at what can be a particularly challenging time - the process is made as easy as possible.”

A 2017 report by the consumer group Fairer Finance into the pre-paid funeral market “uncovered a litany of problems in the sector, both in terms of conduct and consumer protection”, and urged the Government to step in “to protect vulnerable customers”, the BBC reports.

John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury, said of the culture of upselling: “I’m appalled by the lengths that some dishonest salesmen have gone to in order to sell a funeral plan.”

However, some firms are attempting to counter the negative image of funeral directors, including the Co-op, which recently announced the launch of cheaper, more basic cremation packages.

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