Category Archives: News

Competition & Markets Authority Slams Funeral Directors & Crematoria

The CMA has published its provisional conclusions as part of its in-depth market investigation into funeral services. (MORE on the Regulation of Funeral PLANS here)

The investigation has identified a number of issues:

  • Due to the inherent emotional distress people experience when arranging a funeral, they understandably tend not to spend time comparing providers. They typically choose to use a funeral director that has been recommended or is familiar to them. For crematoria, people generally select one that is closest to them geographically.
  • Pricing and product information is not provided consistently by funeral directors in a way that allows people to compare different offers.
  • The fees charged by funeral directors and crematoria increased at a rate well above inflation for at least a decade.
  • Most people believe that funeral directors are regulated, but that is not the case in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The investigation found that, although many funeral directors meet good standards, some are providing unacceptably low levels of care of the deceased.
  • Regarding crematoria, there are high barriers to entry in the form of the planning regime, as well as building and operating costs, meaning that crematoria are generally few and far between. Most people have little or no choice about which crematorium to use as there is often only one option within a reasonable distance.

The exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which were unforeseen when the CMA market investigation began, has had a significant impact on the investigation:

  • Due to the tragic number of deaths from coronavirus since March, there has been an unprecedented increase in demand for funerals. This has made it difficult to obtain necessary data from funeral directors, crematoria operators and local authorities.
  • The restrictions imposed by the government during the pandemic has changed the kinds of funeral services available to people. This has also made it challenging to effectively conduct research and testing into possible remedies.
  • It is difficult to forecast accurately the future revenue and profitability of funeral directors and crematoria operators. This has significant ramifications for the design and implementation of price controls as a possible remedy.
  • Some of the remedies considered by the CMA would need to be implemented by other organisations, such as local authorities, devolved administrations and central government. These have very limited capacity at this time due to the coronavirus.

This combination of circumstances highlights a serious dilemma. On the one hand, it is clear that the funerals sector is not working well and that reforms will be needed. On the other hand, the pandemic has created insurmountable obstacles to some of the solutions needed to design and implement far-reaching reform of the sector at this stage.

The CMA has no legal power to suspend or further extend this market investigation. Some of the remedies the CMA was considering, such as price controls, could not safely be introduced during a national emergency. The report setting out the CMA’s provisional conclusions on this market investigation provisionally recommends that when conditions are more stable, the CMA should consider whether a supplementary market investigation is needed.

The CMA’s provisional conclusions therefore have 3 elements:

  • Setting out clearly and fully in today’s provisional report the problems that the CMA has identified in its investigation.
  • Identifying the kind of remedies most likely to address these problems, including the introduction of price controls, whilst recognising that coronavirus inevitably means that some of these cannot be designed and implemented in the short term.
  • Implementing a set of practical and effective steps that can be taken immediately in order to protect people, such as requiring funeral directors and crematoria to be transparent in their pricing.

The CMA has provisionally decided that, in the short term, it will require all funeral directors and crematoria to provide customers with information on, and the prices of, the various services and packages they offer. This will go a long way to ensuring people have easily accessible information on services and costs to help them decide which type of funeral arrangement they require.

The CMA proposes to continue active monitoring of the funerals sector with an obligation on funeral directors and crematoria to provide the CMA with key financial data every quarter.

Other proposals include a provisional recommendation that the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland establish an inspection and registration regime to monitor the quality of funeral director services. A similar regime already exists in Scotland.

Martin Coleman, CMA Panel Inquiry Chair, said:

Given the inherently distressing circumstances in which people arrange a funeral, we want to make sure they can be confident that they are not being overcharged and that their loved one is cared for properly – this is what our investigation has focused on.

The later stages of the investigation have been conducted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a tragic increase in death rates and has materially changed how funerals are carried out. This has had a big impact on how far we can immediately address some of the issues we have identified.

But there are remedies that are feasible and effective in the short term. We are proposing a package of ‘sunlight’ remedies which will shine a light for consumers on the pricing and practices of the sector and make sure that deceased people are cared for properly. This will ensure that the prices of funeral directors and crematoria, and the quality of the service that funeral directors provide, are exposed to greater scrutiny, helping people to make the right choices during an incredibly difficult time.

Further change in the sector is necessary but some of the remedies we were considering could not safely be introduced in the middle of a national emergency. Our proposals will hold open the door to price controls when circumstances created by the pandemic change sufficiently to permit these to be considered.

Notes to editors

Under section 131 of the Enterprise Act 2002, the CMA makes a reference to the CMA Panel Chair to appoint a Group of members of the CMA Panel to carry out a market investigation. The investigation and decisions of the Group are required to be taken independently of the Board of the CMA, and the Board’s oversight and governance role does not extend into the substance of decisions taken by the Group.

Coop Funerals

Coop Funerals Dispatches – Screw The Punters.

Coop funerals will be suffering a downturn in sales after the Channel 4 Dispatches programme on their “care” of the deceased .

One of the problems with large impersonal organisations like Coop Funeral care is that the drive to keep costs down and profits up.  In the case of the Coop there were an awful lot of issues of concern:

1)      Sales pressure from Coop Funerals management to avoid selling basic inexpensive funerals, which is against the industry code.  Amazingly, a managers permnsision seems to be needed to sell one, which is calculated to make the mourner feel very small indeed.

2)      The same applies to cheap coffins – try to avoid the punter even seeing that they are available.

3)      Same applies to “hygienic treatment” which is pushed as an essential, when it usually isn’t unless the body needs to be preserved for some reason.

4)      Bodies were not stored at the Chapel of Rest, but many miles away in an industrial unit in racks, just as a supermarket would store products for distribution.   They often were not even covered over.  The “hub” system can be efficient of well staffed and organised, but it seemed to be neither in this case.

One of the principal problems with the Coop Funerals system is that bodies are often stored 3o miles away from the “Chapel of Rest” relatives assume they are in.  They are then transported back from the industrial unit (or hub) to the Chapel of Rest if the family want to see them.

The pressure on Coop Funerals workers in the factory hubs is intense.  This can lead to mix ups with bodies.  It did, in the film, lead to one funeral being delayed after the wrong body was brought to the funeral.  One wonders how often this happens without the mistakle being spotted.

Coop Funerals seemed to ignore the Code of Practice of the National Association of Funeral Directors of which they are a leading member.  Not to mention letting down their own ethical reputation in the drive for efficiency and profit.

You would expect Coop Funerals to have much higher standards.

Coop Funerals staff seem to have “sell, sell, sell” as their mantra.  Tyey are dealing with people at a very vulnerable time, and they seem to be training to tajke full advantage of their distress.

Buying a funeral is a distress purchase, and people are very vulnerable.  That is why we so strongly support the sale of prepaid funeral plans: and NOT Coop Funeral Plans!

Coop Funerals Dispatches

Originally posted 2012-07-12 13:09:12.

Woodland Burials Grow

GreenAcres Woodland Burials                    Green Funeral Plans Page.

GreenAcres Woodland Burials are working on building a national woodland burial service, with a woodland burial site near you.

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

Julie Smillie of The Prepaid Funeral Review says “We have seen a significant growth in the number of people wishing to include Woodland Burials in their prepared funeral plans, and some of the big players we research are now quite willing to do so.  Contact us for details of plans which will allow Woodland Burials.”

Green Acres Woodland Burials have three sites in Norfolk, Essex and Buckinghamshire at the moment.  Steady increases in the number or burials in their existing Woodland Burial sites, and a massive increase in woodland burial sites – 5 in 1995 to 260 in 2012 – has precipitated their decision.

Sir Michael Bibby, MD of Bibby Line Group, which owns GreenAcres Woodland Burials  says: “The plans to expand are in recognition of where we see the woodland burial market going in coming years.”

Andy Paling, who runs the woodland burial sites of GreenAcres Woodland Burials, added: “The move to the new name of GreenAcres Woodland Burials is designed to send a strong and positive message to the public and, in particular, funeral directors, who recognise that we offer a level of service and professionalism that is consistent with what they themselves offer.

“We are determined to be the woodland burial park against which all others are measured in terms of our service, quality and trust.”

GreenAcres Woodland Burials has now received permission for site number 4 in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.  They have 5 additional sites in the planning stages, which will double the number of woodland burial sites in the group.

5 New Woodland Burial Parks

“We were an early arrival to the industry and opened our first park in 2001. Given the growth and the wide variation in the funeral experience that is being offered we needed to differentiate ourselves and demonstrate that we offer impeccable service in a natural environment for a totally personal funeral,” Andy Paling MD of GreenAcres Woodland Burials added.

“The name change and investment programme, combined with the quality of our team, is at the heart of our belief in the business.”

Woodland Burials Growing seems, on the face of it, like a good thing if it encourages more trees to be planted and makes funeral more eco-friendly, we at the Prepaid Funeral Review say.

For more information on woodland burials and other eco funerals, click the link.

Woodland Burial Parks Grow.

Originally posted 2012-07-11 08:04:28.

Life Story – Why Not Make Yours?

Doc Makes a Life Story Video Documentary in Retirement

By Jane Lehmann

Doc Wylde had a wild time growing up. Like most kids of his generation, the only time he spent inside was to eat and sleep.

Impassioned naturalist

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

Doc started out as an impassioned naturalist. Not the airy-fairy tree-hugging kind, but someone who camped out, fished and hunted all his life. Now 83 and living in Southern California, he traveled as a child along the Ortega Highway in the family’s Model A Ford for vacations on the San Juan Creek. As a young boy, he scooped fish out of the creek’s shallows by hand, trying to save them from the summer heat by moving them to deeper pools.

Doc knew that he had lived a kind of privileged life. Not a lot of the luxuries, mind you. But he was a boy at a time when being a boy meant being outside from dawn till well after dark. When being a boy allowed you to carry a rifle and get up to all kinds of things well beyond the prying eyes of the grown-ups. It was this thinking that, much later in his retirement, began to make Doc think that he should make a life story video and tell the whole story.

Wild honey
As Doc recalls in his life story video, vacations were almost always at the family cabin on San Juan Creek. He used to collect wild honey from the hills, being extremely careful to avoid the cougars. Later, he would give Elynor his Sigma Chi Fraternity pin during a USC pledge party at the cabin (properly chaperoned of course.)

Doc is also part of a growing number of seniors who are preserving their life stories with private, personal history video documentaries – known in the industry as “video biographies” or “life story videos”. Doc created his life story video so that future generations would know his story. “I want them to know something about me and our family history. This life story video is something that I can leave them.”

Doc pretty much made a success of everything he tried in life. His persistence is legendary, as Elynor attests to in his life story video. But in retirement, he found his mind increasingly turning to his early days.

Thermal pools
Like the time when he and his friends (and their girls) used to sneak into the thermal pools along the Ortega Highway. The thermal pools were part of an old spa, which had been boarded up a long time ago.

Another story Doc recounts in his life story video is the time he went out shooting quail. Not hitting any birds, he volunteered to use his posterior as a test target for his suspect shotgun. (“I was wearing jeans,” he say, to avoid being considered too idiotic.) It turned out that the problem was not the shotgun, and Doc had some difficulty in sitting down for weeks after.

Biggest regret
Perhaps the most unpleasant memory Doc recalls in his life story video documentary comes from the Second World War. Doc was too young to serve by just a few years. But he was big enough to get into trouble. So he let his friends talk him into breaking into cabins along the San Juan Creek. They got in, got out, and Doc became very popular giving the booty away at school. Then the sheriff arrived and Doc spent two weeks in the OC lock-up. “It sure taught me a lesson,” he says in the life story video. “I never broke the law ever again.”

Life Story Historian
As well as being a naturalist, Doc is a historian. Not the pipe-smoking, tweed jacket wearing kind, but someone who has photographed, filmed, processed and preserved his own personal history and the history of his family. Over the course of decades, he has created an archive of more than 10,000 photographs and over 50 hours of film and video footage.

Doc has never been afraid of the new technology. He runs a sophisticated computer setup with multiple screens and more drives than you could poke a stick at. He flits from one program to another and pops disks into computer drawers with as much ease as some folks lob coins into slots.

So making his own documentary in his retirement – with a little pro help – was always a natural fit for Doc.

Life Story Videos “They are increasingly common” says Jane Lehmann, co-owner of Your Story Here Video Biography and Regional Marketing Coordinator for Southern California for the Association of Personal Historians. “Seniors are realizing just how extraordinary their lives and times have been. The 20th century saw some pretty dramatic events after all. And seniors are routinely being told by their children that their stories are important and well worth preserving with life story video documentaries.”

A life story video will typically run for around 60 minutes and combine interview material with personal and archive photographs and video footage. (Although in the case of Doc Wylde, his life story video ran to around 100 minutes over two disks – one for his personal life and one covering his business life.) Depending on the requirements of the story, there may be narration and there are always chapter breaks as well as music, captions, a DVD menu and a custom designed DVD box. Life story videos can be posted to the web.

The end result is an “A&E” style private video documentary that becomes, for many people, their most important legacy. People learn more about making their own personal history documentary, and the different product options available, by asking questions, phoning around, and researching Life Story Video on-line.

Article Source:

Information on UK Funeral Plans.

Originally posted 2012-07-09 13:20:05.

Video Ethical Wills

5 Steps to a Video Ethical Will

But you still need a normal Last Will and testament.

By Jane Lehmann

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

Do you remember that scene in the movie Superman (the one with Christopher Reeve) where he goes to the North Pole for a bit of alone time? He brings along a bag of crystals which he tosses into the snow and that organize themselves into the ultimate snow cave. He then places the master crystal – the green one I think – into his newly erected icy console and, lo-and-behold, his father (by now long dead) starts talking to him and imparting life lessons.

Released back in 1978, Superman is still the ultimate depiction of an ethical will in all of video cinema (although My Life is also worth watching as an example of the ethical will in a modern narrative film). It was through the magic of those crystals that Clark Kent was able to learn that he is more than just the adopted son of those kind but limited, aging mid-western farmers. And he is able to learn what his responsibilities will be living among us poor benighted human kind.

In the real world, an ethical is not very different to the one Supe’s Dad packed for him (just as Krypton exploded). But, instead of those crystals, we have – of course – the video camera and DVDs.

So, what is an ethical will?

An ethical will is a message to future generations about values, beliefs and life lessons. It can also cover more business-like matters, such as wishes for your funeral, recipients for small gifts, or even instructions in the event of medical emergency (“health care proxies”). Sometimes called “spiritual wills” or “legacy letters”, the idea is to pass on the intangibles of a well-lived life. A testamentary will conveys your possessions; an ethical will conveys your thoughts and beliefs and can impart life lessons or bestow deep and personal blessings on others.

Difficult economic times seem to have contributed to the increasing popularity of ethical wills. With so many personal savings accounts crushed by the Great Financial Crisis, people are realizing that treasure can be lost, but values are eternal. So creating an ethical will (in writing or on video) has never been more important.

Whether you plan to create an ethical will on video or in writing (or on Powerpoint or in a scrapbook or on an audio tape) the process is largely the same.

Step 1: Who is the beneficiary?

First, you must decide who the beneficiary will be of your spiritual letter. As in any communication, knowing your audience will help determine the subjects you cover, and your words. And ethical will meant to be heard by grown up children will likely be a little different to an ethical will which you intend your grandchildren to watch. It may be that you choose to address different people with different parts of the legacy letter.

Of course, you must factor in that no matter what your intentions are, ultimately you will not be able to control the audience for your ethical will.

Step 2: Decide what to include

Next, jot down a list of topics that you would like to cover. It might include some life event and the lesson your draw from it? More than one person has lived to regret having taken shortcuts with their education and use their ethical will to instruct their grandchildren otherwise. Is it to tell the children that, despite everything, you are proud of and happy with them and happy with their choices in life? As parents, we can be overly judgmental and spiritual wills are a chance to set the record straight once and for all.

Perhaps you feel the need to explain some decision you made, or direction that you took. Are there values you wish your descendants to follow? Do you want to record family history? Maybe you just want to say “thank you for all the love and support”.

Step 3: What form should you use?

Third, decide how you want to record your ethical will. Pen and blank paper is the quickest. Or, you may choose to get a book that will guide you through the process and that provides guided space for your writing (“The Wealth of Your Life” by Susan Turnbull is one such book). For a more personal approach, you may record your voice on audio.

Or, as I always recommend, you may decide to talk about your life on video. Video is a form of immortality, if you think about it. And words spoken on camera have an immediacy and an emotional impact for which there is really no equal. Up there in the ice and snow, Superman actually heard his father’s voice – he didn’t just read a letter (hastily scrawled in Kryptonese).

Step 4: Things to watch out for

Fourth, you must get down to tin tacks. Start with an outline built from your topics and then flesh it out. If your ethical will is going to be written down, then there may be a number of drafts. If you plan to create a written spiritual letter, then all you will need will be your notes. If the ethical will is to be set down on video in an interview format, then the interviewer will have your topics and will be able to prompt your answers.

There are some things to watch out for when composing your legacy letter:

Don’t use your ethical will to settle scores or to have the last word. Say nothing that you can ever imagine regretting.

Be careful about singling out one person for special praise or thanks. Unavoidably, you will cast others into the shade which may not be your intention.

Don’t delay. Time speeds up the older you get and as a result it gets harder and harder to get things done.

Don’t fuss about your appearance. Future generations are interested in who you were and what was important to you.

Try to be uplifting. In her book, Susan Turnbull gives this example of a couple addressing their young children:

“We hope that you will always look outside yourselves and consider the perspective of others… We hope that you will be aware of what is going on in your community and how events are affecting people there…”

There is no question that a video ethical will requires a little more planning and a little more equipment. Luckily, there are professionals available to help with ethical wills on video.

Step 5: Safe hands

Finally, with the ethical will all done, decide if you are going to retain it until after you are gone or if you wish to distribute it now. If you want to wait till your passing, then just as you will have done for your testamentary will, you will want to provide for your legacy letter’s safekeeping. If you wish to give your letter immediately, if your ethical will is on video and your are anxious to showcase your work for some special occasion, or if it contains an important healthcare proxy, then you must ensure that it is placed in the right hands to achieve your objective (and make sure that any healthcare proxy conforms to all legal requirements).

That Superman movie really made an impression on me. It seemed so far fetched at the time. But in 30 short years since that movie came out (and its star having passed on already) – we have entered a future where all of us can speak to our children and grandchildren long after we have gone. There will be many reasons to put off starting an ethical will project – be it for video or otherwise. But losing the chance to connect directly and personally with future generations is a loss which few of us, on reflection, could tolerate.

As George Eliot said, “Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.”

Article Source:

For information on prepaid funeral plans.

Green Funeral Plans Page.

Originally posted 2012-07-05 13:17:06.