Author Archives: Steve Pett

Assist Funeral Plans Ltd

We have never had any dealings with Assist Funeral Plans Ltd which appears to be no longer trading. We were approached by a member of the public who had purchased an Assist Funeral Plan and was unable to get any response from them.  In theory, the clients’ funds should be perfectly safe in the Assist Funeral Trust – but we have as yet been unable to find out who manages that or where it is located.

Company details are available here (direct download from Companies House._

The Director is listed as GORDON, Michael Thomas.

His correspondence address was listed as 5 Jupiter House, Calleva Park, Aldermaston, Reading, Berks, United Kingdom, RG7 8NN.  Mr Gordon apparently held 882 directorships!

But that is the address of UKPLC Company Registrations: we asked for further information on 12th December 2018 when the company came to our attention.

The only shareholder of the company was listed as Sibtain Mohammed Hussain.

The address listed for Sibtain Hussain seems to be an accommodation address at 3rd Floor, 207 Regent Street London W1B 3HH. Again, we contacted them on 12th December 2018 to see if they could help -(update) they have had no dealings with Assist at all and advise me that they occupy the whole building.  so this route won’t help: accommodation address agencies are required to confirm the identity of their clients, so if they were being used they should have more information.

We contacted the Funeral Planning Authority and they indicated that Citizens Advice and Trading Standards might be useful ports of call. The Financial Conduct Authority has no direct involvement with funeral plans.

If you have any further information please do let us know, with our Funeral Plan Watchdog hats on.

Star Ratings for Funeral Plans

Funeral Plans are not all the same5* = the right plan for you? At the Prepaid Funeral Review, we don’t think star ratings are anywhere near enough to even help to decide which plan best fits your personal situation. Even 5* plans have weakness in some areas. We don’t think there is any substitute for free and independent advice – why make your choice without expert help when you don’t have too?

Some things Star Ratings may not take into account are:

  • Where you live – remote areas, or areas where access by ferry needed, areas with few funeral directors.
  • Maybe you don’t want a standard plan, or there might be a need to make changes at the point of use. Some providers are flexible, some charge extortionately for minor changes.  Some won’t change at all.
  • One really important bit of flexibility is to use the plan for someone else’s funeral – a friend or relative has died and no one has the cash (rather than credit card) to pay thousands of pounds for an unexpected funeral. It might be nice to have that option rather than being told you can cash you plan for several hundred pounds less than you paid in 10 years before, and maybe have enough for half a funeral.  Some plans are designed ONLY to pay for your funeral.
  • How good and flexible the instalment terms – are they reasonable? Would a longer term than most people offer enable you to afford a proper prepaid plan rather than a poor value non-profit whole of life plan?
  • For those buying in instalments. What happens if you die before payments have been completed?  In most cases, your family would need to pay the full balance before the funeral could take.

We are not saying for one minute that 5 Star rated prepaid funeral plans are bad.  We’re just saying that star ratings are general, and your needs and wishes are individual.  We can take them into account before we make a recommendation.  And it won’t cost you extra – often less.

Over 50s Plans: We hate to disagree but

This is what Martin Lewis says about Over 50s Plans and we really think they have entirely missed the problem from a consumers viewpoint:

Weigh up whether an over-50s’ plan is really worth it

Over-50s’ plans promise to pay a fixed lump sum on death, with no need for a medical, which you could then use to cover your funeral costs.

While these sound like an easy way to protect your loved ones, there’s a crucial term in the small print:

“Premiums are payable for life and you could pay more in than is paid out on death.”

Because the amount it pays out is fixed, if you live a long time you may end up paying more for the plan than you’d ever receive.

So if you’ve got a plan already, don’t just cancel. First, do some sums to see how good or bad these plans work out for you. For full details see our Over 50s’ Life Insurance guide.”

So what is the major problem with Over 50s Plans?

Easy, it is the fact that a very large percentage of them won’t pay out a penny.

Why? Because they only pay out on death if the policy is still active, so the ideal financial scenario for the insurer is that the client pays for many, many years, then gets a bit old or dotty and forgets what the policy is and cancels it. So the insurer gets to keep all the premiums and doesn’t have to pay out so much as a bean!

Many others will keep topping up their plans in an attempt to keep up with funeral plan price inflation – only to find that they can no longer afford the premiums.  Result: you guessed it: the insurer gets to keep all the premiums and doesn’t have to pay out so much as a bean!

I wonder if any of the providers would dare provide the statistics showing what percentage of plans actually pay out?

Footnote: Over 50s plans is a generic name for non-profit whole of life insurance, though the public and some providers use it in a different sense. In our opinion, every sale of a non-profit whole of life plan is likely to be a mis-sale, but as they are not regulated products, I don’t believe compensation is available! Anyway, most people don’t realise there is a problem until it is too late and they are already dead, and for relatives to do anything they would need first o find out about the policy, then prove it was mis-sold, then get a grant of probate and finally complain!!

Our main report on Over 50s Plans is here.

Competition in the Funeral Sector

The interim report published on 29th November 2018 presents the issues the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has identified since launching a Market Study into the funerals sector 6 months ago.

Stephen Pett (8)Stephen Pett of The Prepaid Funeral Review says “We are pleased to see these issues being addressed, which can only give people more motivation to plan ahead to avoid unexpected and often very large bills being imposed on vulnerable and grieving relatives. Dealing with vulnerable people is (or should be) an exercise in integrity, not sales skills, something which some firms forget!

Its initial work indicates problems with the market that have led to above-inflation price rises for well over a decade – both for funeral director services and crematoria services. The scale of these price rises does not currently appear to be justified by cost increases or quality improvements.

Given the nature and significance of the issues the CMA has identified, it believes the full powers of a Market Investigation – carried out by an independent group of CMA panel members – are required. Issues include that:

Today, people generally spend between £3,000 and £5,000 organising a funeral, and the price of the essential elements has increased by more than two-thirds in the last 10 years, almost 3 times the rate of inflation. Organising a funeral would now cost those on the lowest incomes nearly 40% of their annual outgoings, more than they spend on food, clothing and energy combined.

Customers could save over £1,000 by looking at a range of choices in their local area. However, people organising a funeral are usually distressed and often not in a position to do this – making it easier for some funeral directors to charge higher prices. Prices are also often not available online, making it difficult to compare options.

While some smaller funeral directors have sought to keep their prices low, other providers – the larger chains in particular – have implemented policies of consistently high year-on-year price increases. A number of these have now introduced lower cost funeral options, but this doesn’t go far enough to make up for years of above inflation price hikes. The CMA’s evidence also indicates most people who organise a funeral remain extremely vulnerable to exploitation and future rises in charges.

Cremations account for 77% of funerals, yet there are limited choices for most people in their local area and fees charged by crematoria have increased by 84% on average in the past 10 years, more than 3 times the rate of inflation.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said:

People mourning the loss of a loved one are extremely vulnerable and at risk of being exploited. We need to make sure that they are protected at such an emotional time, and we’re very concerned about the substantial increases in funeral prices over the past decade.

We now feel that the full powers of a market investigation are required to address the issues we have found. We also want to hear from people who have experienced poor practices in the sector, so that we can take any action needed to fix these problems.

The CMA will now be consulting on the potential market investigation reference and welcomes any views on the issues identified in its report by 4 January 2019.

It would also like to hear from people involved in the industry and others, who may have observed instances of poor quality standards in the back-of-house facilities of funeral directors. Details on how to respond are available on the funerals market study page.

2 Web Enquiry Form

Unlike nearly everyone else in the market, we offer fully independent advice, irrespective of any commission (even we have to live!) This page gives us as much – or as little – information about your wishes as you care to give.

We promise not to try to sell you anything over the phone, or to appear on your doorstep. We just offer an Independent Recommendation from across the market, provide you with the FULL information you need to make a decision then leave you to decide in your own time. All we ask is that you use the forms we send you if you go ahead. Is that fair?