Funeral Planning Authority: why use a member.
Every funeral plan provider who is a member of The Funeral Planning Authority has a solid complaints procedure in place, backed by a rigid Code of Practice. However, it has no teeth.
Our experience, such as it is, is that most of the complaints we come across against members of the Funeral Planning Authority, but then they do sell most of the funeral plans. And the complaints tend to be about the service of the funeral director rather than the plan provider. That said, the complaints seem to be predominantly against just one organisation, which obviously reflects on the advice we give when you are ready to buy a funeral plan.
A few years ago we would have needed a very good reason to recommend funeral plans from an unregulated funeral plan provider. But then we read the regulations of the Funeral Planning Authority more carefully and realised that what they offer is really an illusion of protection rather than the real thing. They are a club for funeral plan sales companies, and they really are a good thing, but they just do not cut the mustard as a “regulator” as they are unofficial and pretty much toothless when it comes to protecting you. One of their members offers a contract which we feel is so bad as to be immoral.
This is what the Funeral Planning Authority says about complaints against its’ members:
COMPLAINTS AGAINST FUNERAL PLANNING AUTHORITY REGISTERED PROVIDERS.
Each Registered Provider of funeral plans agrees to respond to any complaint received within a specified period of time from receipt of the complaint – this commitment can be seen in their terms and conditions. Consequently, if you have a complaint against a Registered Provider, please follow the complaints procedure specified.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the Registered Provider’s response, the complaint may be referred to the FPA’s dispute resolution scheme operated through Independent Dispute Resolution Services. This can be accessed by contacting the FPA. The FPA Registered Provider is obliged to comply with any finding of the dispute resolution scheme but the complainant is not so constrained and can take whatever further legal action they consider appropriate.
Experience has shown that very few complaints are put to the dispute resolution service.
Complaints and Dispute Resolution.
Rule 5 of the Authority’s Rules contains the detail of the Authority’s complaints and dispute resolution procedures, with the Authority’s Code of Practice (paragraph 6) containing a summary.
Funeral Planning Authority Conciliation Service.
The Authority provides a conciliation service in an endeavour to resolve any complaint or dispute which arises between a Registered Provider and a customer, another Registered Provider or a third party. The procedure provided to resolve dispute is:
- resolution with the Registered Provider;
- referral to the Authority’s conciliation service;
- referral to a recognised arbitration service, arbitration scheme or ombudsman scheme.
Customer Complaints to Registered Providers.
If a customer is dissatisfied with the service he has received from a Registered Provider, the customer is expected in the first instance to inform the Registered Provider, at which time the Registered Provider will deal with the complaint in accordance with the Registered Provider’s written complaints procedure.
Registered Provider’s Complaints Procedures.
A Registered Provider must provide the Authority’s Compliance Committee with a copy of the Registered Provider’s written procedures for ensuring that complaints from customers are promptly and effectively dealt with and which, in particular, must ensure that:
- the Registered Provider’s employees, agents and representatives are fully aware of, have received adequate training in and comply with, the procedure;
- the procedure provides for complaints to be dealt with by a person of appropriate seniority;
- all appropriate action is taken to remedy a complaint;
- the Registered Provider shall offer maximum co-operation with local consumer advisers or any other intermediary consulted by the client;
- where a complaint is not remedied the customer is advised of how the complaint may be pursued further;
- appropriate records are made;
- the Registered Provider shall not be able to refuse to allow a complaint to be considered elsewhere if the client so chooses;
Conciliation by the Funeral Planning Authority.
The Authority strongly recommends the parties in dispute to attempt to resolve their differences by the informal process of conciliation. The Authority’s conciliation service is established with the objective of enabling conciliation procedures to be pursued.
The Authority will nominate a person to oversee the conciliation process, and all complaints or disputes that are required to be resolved should be submitted in writing to the Authority.
The full conciliation process can be obtained from Rule 5.3 of the Authority’s Rules, but if the complaint or dispute is not resolved by conciliation, the complainant may seek resolution of the complaint by or under a recognised arbitration service, arbitration scheme or ombudsman scheme, or seek redress from the County Court or (in Scotland) the Sheriff Court.