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Complaints about Prepaid Funeral Plans: It Does Happen: What To Do

funeral plan complaints

Normally, we don’t hear any complaints about funeral plans as they do their job smoothly.

However, there are two areas currently causing concern and keeping us busy trying to help, even though we have no direct involvement.  PLEASE don’t call us when you have problems, but we are always interested to know if you would be kind enough to email us using the form below.   So, the two major problems are:

  1. Funeral Plan Complaints: plans sold by phone.

We do not agree with plans being sold by phone in the first place.  But we are getting lots of calls about companies being slow to repay amounts paid ranging from £50 to £3,000 where the client cancels within the required period which typically ranges from 14 to 30 days.  Perhaps they actually read the Terms and Conditions when they finally arrive and discover the plan is not all the salesperson said it was, or maybe they just realised it was not a decision which should be made in haste.

Anyway, our advice is to phone the company immediately if you want to cancel in the initial period when you can get your money back, and take the name of the person you speak to.  Then follow it immediately with a letter, mentioning the name of the person you spoke too. Keeping a copy of the letter, and ideally, send it recorded delivery. Be aware that the procedure for retrieving cash from Trust Funds or Insurance Funds is not immediate, so as long as your refund request is acknowledged in writing or by email from the actual provider, you may need to be a little patient. It could take as long as 5 weeks or so.

2. Complaints about Funeral Plans affected by Coronavirus.

These are a different kettle of fish: many funerals have been affected, and it has been impossible to deliver the full funeral the deceased had paid for.  Not all funeral plan companies are Regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority, so they can’t help with unregulated ones.  See the providers review which should indicate if they are. We approached the Funeral Planning Authority for a statement, and this is what they said:

“What happens when some element of the plan cannot be delivered? The Funeral Planning Authority has not issued any specific guidance largely because trying to make rules to address the number of different potential situations was likely to lead to more unintended consequences.  However, if there is an element of a plan that cannot be delivered we would expect FPA registered providers to treat their customers fairly and provide an alternative service or an appropriate refund for the element of service not delivered.  For any customer or family with issues, who have plans with FPA registered providers, our advice is to have the conversation with the provider in the first instance. If that doesn’t address their concerns then to raise a formal complaint with the provider and if that is not resolved then complain to us. There is a form on our website that can be completed ( https://funeralplanningauthority.co.uk/contact-us/complaint-form/ ) or email us at info@funeralplanningauthority.co.uk .”

Clearly, not all firms are FPA Regulated, but their recommendations are perfectly reasonable.  Where the firm is unregulated, you might wish to approach the local Trading Standards Office  but you should first have complained about the fact that the funeral plan was not fully fulfilled and no sensible alternative offered, by telephone and  in writing to the provider.  Some funeral directors will actually have dealt with the matter already, by allowing extra flowers, printing or an upgraded urn etc.

We cannot resolve complaints about funeral plans, but we are interested in your experiences, so please let us know about them.

Avalon Funeral Plan Coup

Avalon celebrates exceptional feedback after being named ‘Best Funeral Plan Provider’ at this year’s Personal Finance Awards.

Stephen Pett of the Prepaid Funeral Review said “I was pleased to receive Avalons Press Release (below) which clearly shows they are one of the most improving providers in the crowded prepaid funeral plan market. As one gets better, all the rest have to try harder to get an edge – which makes our Independent Advice even more important.”

Avalon Funeral Plans is celebrating a coveted award win after being named ‘Best Funeral Plan Provider’ at the 2019 Personal Finance Awards.

Now in its 22nd year, the Personal Finance Awards has long been recognised as a benchmark for excellence in the UK’s consumer finance market, providing a reflection of the consumer’s choice of top financial providers over the last two decades.

Nominations for the awards are sent in directly by the consumer, based on their experience of outstanding products or customer service in the industry. This year, the awards received just over 20,000 votes.

With over 25 years’ experience providing funeral plans to more than 70,000 customers across the UK and Europe, Avalon was recognised for its dedication to its customers, as well as the high standard of its service.

These qualities are continuously reflected in the company’s industry-leading customer feedback, with over 2,000 reviews and a rating of ‘excellent’ on Trustpilot, as well as a five-star rating on Defaqto, lending justification to the company’s esteemed award win. So trusted is the brand that someone chooses an Avalon funeral plan every 10 minutes*.

Avalon’s prepaid funeral plans are designed to give customers peace of mind, working with a network of 1,800 local, independent funeral directors across the UK to ensure that families always have support close to home.

Avalon’s commitment to putting the customer at its heart is also reflected in the unique features offered in their plans when compared to other funeral plan providers. The Avalon Promise, launched earlier this year, reassures customers that if they pass away before their plan is fully paid, Avalon can cover the cost of the services included in their funeral plan.

The Promise offers increased peace of mind for Avalon’s customers, and the company is the only plan provider that works with local, independent funeral directors to offer this.

The award win follows a successful period of growth for the business under a new senior management team led by CEO, Susan Stevenson.

Speaking about the award win, Avalon’s CEO, Susan Stevenson, said: “There are few other industries in which taking care of the customer, their journey and their family is quite so important.

“We like to think we’re different to other funeral plan providers in that we go the extra mile in helping customers and their loved ones when they perhaps need it most.

“It’s our promise to always put our customers at the centre of what we do, and the fact that we’ve been recognised for our efforts – particularly by such a widely renowned awarding body as the Personal Finance Awards – really means the world to us.”

Regulated in the UK by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), Avalon employs more than 200 people at its offices in Cheshire and across Spain, The Canaries, Portugal and Cyprus.

The company is flexible in offering customers three different ways to discuss their requirements and their range of funeral plans.  They can speak to a specialist advisor in the comfort of their own home, or over the phone, or 24/7 online.

For more information, and to find out if Avalon plans would be right for you, contact Steve at the Prepaid Funeral Review on 0800 0588 240.

*Based on sales of funeral plans over the period January – December 2018, by home appointment or over the phone, during standard trading hours.

Equity Release Council Improves Consumer Protection

New Council Standards provide higher level of consumer protection than any other form of property-based loa.n

  • The Council’s Standards set best practice benchmark by providing a higher level of consumer protection than any other form of property-based loan
  • Update provides protection for consumers who face complex decisions in a growing later life lending market to support their quality of life in retirement
  • Milestone builds on nearly thirty years of work to safeguard and protect consumers

The Equity Release Council has launched its updated industry standards, in the largest evolution since the organisation was established in 2012 as the representative trade body for the UK equity release sector.

The update introduces an approach based on principles and consumer outcomes, which reflects the latest thinking in financial services regulation and complements the existing rules, safeguards and protections. It sets the benchmark for best practice by providing a higher level of consumer protection than any other form of property-based loan. Its purpose is to ensure that equity release products and services continue to deliver good outcomes for customers, who face increasingly complex decisions in an evolving later life market and regulatory landscape.

An extensive consultation took place earlier this year among the Council’s membership, including providers, advisers, solicitors and surveyors. It also drew on external input from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), HM Treasury and the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS). The process was overseen by the Council’s Standards Board, made up of industry professionals and independent regulatory experts*.

The resulting update will be effective from 1st January 2020 and builds on the work which began when clear consumer-focused equity release product standards were first introduced in 1991. The standards have continually evolved since then and have been fundamental to establishing trust in the market, which has supported nearly 500,000 customers to meet their retirement needs during that time.

The standards framework

The Council’s standards go above and beyond statutory regulation and legislation to ensure that members’ products and services conform to best practice when helping customers to make financial decisions in later life. In the past year, membership of the Council has increased to more than 300 firms and 1,000 individuals who commit to this benchmark.

Diagram one: Equity Release Council Standards framework

Source: Equity Release Council, 2019

As well as refreshing and simplifying many rules, the latest standards’ update reinforces the existing focus on providing appropriate support to customers who may be exposed to physical, mental and financial vulnerability at any point of contact. Customers of Council member firms receive three levels of protection, encompassing a structured financial advice process; clear product safeguards; and independent face-to-face legal advice. The latter is particularly important in keeping with the Mental Capacity Act, which identifies solicitors among those professionals who can assess whether someone has the capacity to enter into a contract and is not under duress from any third party.

Chris Pond, Chair of the Equity Release Council’s Standards Board, comments: “The standards are fundamental to the Council’s work to lead a customer-focused market, and today’s launch is an important milestone in nearly thirty years of protecting consumers’ interests. The aim of the review was to ensure that the standards reflect emerging trends in regulation and are future proofed for a world where retirements needs are constantly changing.

“The renewed focus on principles and outcomes alongside existing rules and guidance will help to ensure that equity release products and services continue to meet customer needs. The standards which Council members commit to, above and beyond their regulatory duties, provide the ultimate reassurance to consumers that equity release products are safe and reliable.”

David Burrowes, Chairman of the Equity Release Council concludes: “The UK population is ageing rapidly, and people are having to make increasingly complex decisions over longer lives in retirement. Elderly consumers face a wide range of products and services to meet different and often competing needs – from providing additional retirement income and meeting the costs of care to providing early inheritance to family and friends.

“Today’s landscape demands a joined-up approach to later life financial planning that considers all wealth and assets. Longstanding provisions for equity release customers, such as the guarantee of independent legal counsel, have set a high benchmark for delivering advice in the later life arena. Our updated standards build on these guarantees to ensure they are fit for modern day purposes. They recognise that the best outcomes can often be achieved in different ways, by combining clear rules with overarching principles which all members sign up to. These will continue to evolve in future to meet the ever-more complex challenges facing consumers.”

Dignity Funerals Declare War!

Dignity Funeral Plans, like all of the major players in the prepaid funeral plan market have been significantly affected by the large number of new entrants into the funeral plan market, some with very aggressive sales techniques. But Dignity are fighting back to maintain their market share, and the first salvo was the dramatic price reduction until 30th April 2019. They have also formulated a 3 year plan to fend off the invaders (not quite their words!) Why not contact us to see if a Dignity Plan would be right for you? More on their plans here.

Mike McCollum, Chief Executive of Dignity plc, commented:

“2018 marked the beginning of a period of radical change for Dignity. We reduced our funeral prices, created a broader range of choices for clients and embarked on plans to transform the business by the end of 2021.

Our vision is to lead the funeral sector in terms of quality, standards and value-for-money. To achieve this we are building a more coherent, cohesive and technology-enabled business, one geared to meeting the changing needs of our customers. I am pleased with the progress we made during the year, we built momentum and our Transformation Plan is on track. A lot of work remains to be done, but I am confident that with our highly experienced staff and the new transformation expertise we have brought in, we will achieve our goals.

2019 is likely to mark the start of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (‘CMA’s) investigation into our industry. Our surveys demonstrate that the majority of clients assume the funeral industry is regulated, when it is not. Some may assume that they will receive the same quality of service from different operators irrespective of price. They will not. I am proud that underpinning all of the changes we are making to our business is a continued, relentless commitment to the highest levels of client service. This commitment makes me confident that we have the quality necessary to achieve our ambition of getting ahead of the competitive curve, leading the industry and providing sustainable growth.”

Preliminary results for the 52 week period ended 28 December 2018

Dignity plc (Dignity, the Company or the Group), the UK’s only listed provider of funeral related services, announces its preliminary results for the 52 week period ended 28 December 2018.

Financial highlights52 week period ended 28 December 201852 week period ended 29 December 2017Increase / (decrease) per cent
Revenue (£million)315.6324.0(3)
Underlying operating profit (£million)80.2104.6(23)
Underlying profit before tax (£million)54.477.8(30)
Underlying earnings per share (pence)85.8128.3(33)
Underlying cash generated from operations (£million)101.9115.4(12)
Operating profit (£million)66.398.0(32)
Profit before tax (£million)40.571.2(43)
Basic earnings per share (pence)63.0115.8(46)
Cash generated from operations (£million)94.9112.5(16)
Interim dividend paid in the period (pence)8.648.64
Final dividend proposed in respect of the period (pence)15.7415.74
Deaths599,000590,0002

Alternative performance measures

All measures marked as underlying in the table above and throughout this Preliminary Announcement are alternative performance measures. The reasons for the Group’s use of alternative performance measures, definitions and where relevant, reconciliations are provided in the section on alternative performance measures at the end of this announcement.

Key points

  • Number of deaths as expected;
  • Comparable funeral market share increased slightly following significant declines in 2016 and 2017;
  • Simple funeral pricing reset;
  • Unbundled funeral replacing full service package;
  • Simplicity service offering expanded;
  • Transformation team in place;
  • 3 year detailed Transformation Plan established;
  • Good performance from crematoria; and
  • Pre-need environment remains challenging.

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 (the address of UK PLC Registrations).  Mr Gordon apparently held 882 directorships!  Another address was Trevor Cottage, The Green, Horsted Keynes, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH17 7AW.

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 this is what they had to say about Assist:

We recommend you contact the FCA Unauthorised Business Unit using the following email address: consumer.queries@fca.org.uk and request information on Assist Funeral Plans.  You can do this directly or through Trading Standards / Citizen’s Advice.  It may also be worth registering your concerns with the Police using the action fraud website (https://www.actionfraud.police.uk).  Assist Funeral Plans were not registered with the Funeral Planning Authority but the FPA will provide assistance to you if you and they can and can be contacted at info@funeralplanningauthority.co.uk.

A further disturbing article appears here.

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

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