Regulation of Funeral Plans 2017 Developments

News from Parliament – possible regulation of the sale of funeral plans.

“Funeral salesmen ‘misleading customers’ over contracts, MP says.  Funerals paid for upfront should be subjected to tighter regulation to prevent people being hit with hidden charges, ministers have been told.” We do agree that many adverts for funeral related products are misleading, as are some funeral plan websites.  We also agree that some “salesmen” don’t understand the products they are selling.

But the record of the regulation of financial services would appear to show that their greatest achievement in times of rising need is to prevent the public from getting advice at all.  So whilst we do agree that improvements are needed, we don’t thing you could pick on a more overpaid and less effective bunch than the Financial Conduct Authority to “improve” things.

Our suggestions would be:

  1. Complain about misleading adverts to the Advertising Standards Authority.
  2. Read the brochure and terms of business before buying a plan – even if it is through us!
  3. Annoy the provider by paying by cheque. It is more secure.
  4. Providers should impose knowledge tests on their own staff and agents (in fact we have heard moves in that direction already).
  5. Report liars and cheats to Trading Standards.
  6. Have SIMPLE licencing system for sales people. Our staff are all properly checked out. Pretty much anyone other than the FCA could run such an operation on an annual fee of £25 or so with initial application fee of £50 or so to include criminal records check.  Any complaints could be reviewed by the same organisation.  If the FCA get the job they will want to appoint a Director of Funeral Plan Regulation at a cost £500,000 a year with all the trimmings and an executive team in expensive Canary Wharf.  They will make sure it is someone with no knowledge or understanding of the industry but great skill at devising complex, meaningless rules and hoops.   The Funeral Planning Authority is not, in my opinion, a candidate for this role as it is a gentleman’s club not a regulator in any real sense of the word.  That said, the recent announcement of an independent board may signal a change in the right direction: perhaps they will sort out their members before laying claim to regulating non-members.
  7. A recent development which we don’t like, and is a miss-selling scandal waiting to happen is the cut down funeral plan.  Some of these could result in funeral (which family members can theoretically attend) being held 40 miles away at 9.30 in the morning.  Not great, in our opinion, just a lot more expensive than a Direct Cremation plan. They have their place, like direct cremation, but people need to understand their real impact before saving a few hundred pounds.
  8. MPs seem to have been misinformed – more competition in the funeral plan market is driving both innovation and more competitive pricing.  One provider is even training new Funeral Directors in a bid to reduce funeral prices.
  9. One massive component of the cost of a funeral is the cost of cremation.  Crematoriums usually have a semi monopoly position in their area.  Dignity in particular has been taking advantage of this and now owns or operates 17 of the 20 most expensive crematoriums in the UK, according to Funeral Booker. Surely time for the Competition and Markets Authority to take a look?