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Funeral Planning Authority Code of Practice

CODE OF PRACTICE from 1st January 2020.

 

The Funeral Planning Authority (“the FPA”) is the independent body governing registered pre-paid funeral providers. It aims to ensure that:

 

  • funeral plan providers that are registered with the FPA (“Plan Providers”) maintain high standards of professional conduct; and

 

  • the money that customers pay to a Plan Provider for a funeral plan is safeguarded so that, when the time comes, their funeral will be provided in accordance with that

 

The FPA does this by:

 

  • setting principles for business that govern operations and practices;

 

  • setting stringent minimum requirements for any provider to become an FPA registered provider and to maintain that status;

 

  • having fit and proper controllers of Plan Providers and plan trustees;

 

  • setting rules and standards within which Plan Providers must operate;

 

  • monitoring the activities and outputs of Plan Providers;

 

  • enforcing rules and guidance where necessary;

 

  • making a Pledge to Customers that, in the unlikely event of a Plan Provider becoming insolvent, the other Plan Providers shall co-operate and examine ways in which the FPA might assist in arranging delivery of the funeral of the customers of the insolvent Plan It should be noted this Pledge does not extend to providers that are not registered with the FPA.

 

The FPA’s Rules require the Plan Providers to comply with this Code of Practice and they may be liable to disciplinary action if they fail to do so.

 

  1. PRINCIPLES OF BUSINESS

 

The Code operates to ensure that Plan Providers act in line with high-level principles for business as follows:

 

  • Integrity

 

A Plan Provider must conduct its business with integrity.

 

  • Skill, care and diligence

 

A Plan Provider must conduct its business with due skill, care and diligence.

 

  • Management and control

 

A Plan Provider must take reasonable care to organise and control its affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems.

 

  • Financial prudence

 

A Plan Provider must maintain adequate financial resources.

 

  • Market conduct

 

A Plan Provider must observe proper standards of market conduct.

 

  • Customers’ interests

 

A Plan Provider must pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly.

 

  • Communication with clients

 

A Plan Provider must pay due regard to the information needs of its clients, and communicate information to them in a way which is clear, fair and not misleading.

 

  • Conflicts of interest

 

A Plan Provider must manage conflicts of interest fairly, both between itself and its customers and between a customer and another client.

 

  • Customers relationships of trust

 

A Plan Provider must take reasonable care to ensure the suitability of its advice and discretionary decisions it makes for any customer who is entitled to rely upon its judgment.

 

  • Clients’ assets

 

A Plan Provider must arrange adequate protection for clients’ assets when it is responsible for them.

 

  • Relations with regulators

 

A Plan Provider must deal with its regulators in an open and cooperative way, and must disclose to the appropriate regulator appropriately anything relating to the Plan Provider of which that regulator would reasonably expect notice.

 

2.                  CONDUCT

 

Plan Providers, including their staff and their agents’ representatives:

 

  • Must act in a courteous, sensitive, dignified and professional manner and, in particular, must not significantly impair potential customers’ freedom of choice by the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence that is likely to cause them to take a different decision to buy a funeral plan.

 

  • Must not make unsolicited visits, unsolicited telephone calls, undertake unsolicited direct mailing electronically or otherwise, or door to door canvassing. General leaflet drops or media inserts are not specifically precluded by this clause though Plan Providers should consider how these fit in any particular circumstance with the principles for business. In particular, Plan Providers must ensure specific care is taken in respect of residents of nursing homes, residential care homes or similar establishments and any other vulnerable customers; (see section 3 TCF).

 

  • Must have appropriate policies, processes and oversight to identify and deal with vulnerable customers (see 2) in a manner that does not expose them to the potential or actual detriment.

 

  • Must respect the confidential nature of the information given to them and only use that information for its proper

 

  • In recommending another business, must disclose any interest they may have in that

 

  • Must not make misleading comments about the quality or appropriateness of any funeral plan which a customer has already purchased or is thinking of As defined by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) which specifically refers to unfair commercial practices, misleading actions and omissions.

 

  • Must maintain comprehensive records of all interactions with customers to the extent allowed by Data Protection Regulations.

 

  • Must take every reasonable step to ensure that they or their agents do not undertake any activity that risks bringing the sector into They must also take reasonable steps to notify the FPA of any such activity that comes to their attention.

 

  • From time to time the FPA may issue guidance to support the FPA Rules and/or Code of Plan Providers are required to follow that guidance or have documented reasons for not doing so formally agreed by their governing body.

 

3.                  TREATING CUSTOMERS FAIRLY

 

  • Plan Providers must pay due regard to the interests of their customers and treat them fairly by ensuring that:

 

  • Customers feel confident that they are dealing with a Plan Provider where the fair treatment of customers is central to its culture.

 

  • Products and services marketed and sold are designed to meet the needs of customers.

 

  • Customers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after point of sale.

 

  • Where customers receive advice, the advice is suitable and takes account of their circumstances.

 

  • Customers are provided with products and associated services that perform and are of the standard as Plan Providers have led them to expect.

 

  • Customers do not face unreasonable post-sales barriers imposed by Plan Providers to change a plan, redeem or cancel a plan or make a

 

3.2 Vulnerable customers are those who, due to their personal circumstances, are            especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with            appropriate levels of Appendix 1 provides guidance on factors the FPA believes           should be considered when assessing whether a customer is or may be              vulnerable.

 

3.3 A Plan Provider must have a written policy that sets out how they will identify and treat vulnerable

 

3.4 Plan Providers will take the necessary steps to identify vulnerable customers or customers in vulnerable This will include ensuring all employees, agents or representative operating on the PlanProvider’s behalf are trained in the Plan Provider’s vulnerable customer policy. The consideration of funeral arrangements can, obviously, often arise at very difficult times. Plan Providers should be sensitive to this and take account of any other factors that might affect decisions to take out a plan or choose a funeral.

 

3.5 Plan Providers will make the necessary effort and time to ensure that vulnerable customers understand all aspects of signing a contract for a funeral Where appropriate, Plan Providers must suggest the involvement of a trusted friend or relative.

 

3.6 Plan Providers are prohibited from generating sales enquires or new orders from the creation, obtaining, distribution, maintenance or use of lists of specific customers that are susceptible to responding to cold calling approaches (sucker lists).

 

3.7 Where a Plan Provider undertakes a home visit for the sale of a funeral plan, the representative must leave immediately if requested to do so or if it becomes apparent that the customer is not interested in the goods or services the business is

 

3.8 Customers must be provided with a written cancellation This notice must inform customers of their right to cancel within 30 days or more of the date the customer received such notice without any cancellation or other fee being applied. This condition applies irrespective of the way the plan was sold.

 

 

4.                  MARKETING AND ADVERTISING

 

4.1 Plan Providers must ensure that any marketing or advertising which they undertake does not bring the funeral planning industry into disrepute and that their marketing and advertising:

 

  • is legal, accurate and, as a minimum, complies with all the other requirements of the British Code of Advertising Practice or other relevant Code of Practice and wider requirements of the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008;

 

  • complies with the Principle set out in 7;

 

  • only contains genuine customer endorsements which have been specifically approved by that customer;

 

  • only contains third party endorsements or sponsorship which have been specifically approved by that third party; and

 

  • makes no unsubstantiated claims about funeral plans or services provided by

 

4.2 Plan Providers must provide their employees, agents and representatives with training and written guidance on sales practices, which ensures that potential customers are given sufficient information before entering into a contract to make informed decisions about buying a funeral plan.

 

5.                  INFORMATION

 

5.1 Plan Providers must provide potential customers with written pre- contractual details of any funeral plan being offered, which clearly sets out the following in writing, irrespective of the preferred medium, electronic or hard copies:

 

  • 5.1.1 Information about the main characteristics of the service to be provided in the funeral

 

  • 5.1.2 The type and cost of funerals and other services which can be provided under the funeral plan including what is specifically included by each plan

 

  • 5.1.3 Pricing information showing the total price and a breakdown where appropriate, it must show VAT, administration charges, any instalment charges and any other costed items whether optional or

 

  • 5.1.4 Clear and transparent disclosure on what is not covered by the funeral plan and the potential for the family or estate to pay further amounts at time of This specifically relates to exclusions, these must not only be referred to in the footnotes.

 

  • 5.1.5 If the plan is paid for by instalments, what happens if someone dies before all payments have been

 

  • 5.1.6  If the plan is a fixed monthly payment insurance based plan details of when contributions are paid and when they cease and either:

 

  • the maximum total contributions that could be paid over the plan duration;

 

or

 

  • customer’s age at which contributions paid would equalthe current price of the equivalent

 

Details  of  any  moratorium  period  should  also  be  stated explicitly.

 

  • 5.1.7 The customer’s right to a full refund if the plan is cancelled within 30 days of its commencement (see Clause 8) and any rights to a refund which the customer has if the plan is cancelled by the customer after that time. This should include prominent reference to any cancellation charge that applies, any restrictions on receiving a refund and where no refund is available confirmation of that fact.

 

  • 5.1.8 What happens if the Plan Provider cannot meet its obligations under the plan.

 

  • 5.1.9 Details of the portability of the plan between different funeral directors, before and after the death of the planholder.

 

  • 5.1.10 How a customer may complain about the Plan Provider or any plan provided and how such complaints will be This should also include details of the option for the customer to refer a complaint to the FPA if dissatisfied.

 

  • 5.1.11 Provide details of the Plan Provider’s name, postal address and contact points.

 

  • 5.1.12 The other terms and conditions which apply to the plan.

 

  • 5.1.13 The fact that the Plan Provider is registered with the Funeral Planning Authority.

 

6.                  CONTRACTS AND DOCUMENTS

 

  • 6.1 Plan Providers must give every person who buys a funeral plan a written document, electronic or hard copy, which sets out the plan’s terms and conditions, the specification of the funeral to be provided and how the funeral plan may be amended or cancelled.

 

  • 6.2 Plan Providers must give every person who buys a funeral plan an electronic or hard copy of the customer’s membership card or certificate of A Plan Provider must replace a lost card or certificate once free of charge but may charge a reasonable fee for providing any further replacement cards or certificates.

 

  • 6.3 As part of the material provided to the planholder there should be a plan summary and a key features document that sets out the services covered by the plan and those that are This may form part of other documents but should be accessible to customers both in terms of format and content.

 

  • 6.4 Plan Providers must ensure that every person who buys a funeral plan is given guidance on either how to register a death or the key contacts needed to begin the process of

 

7.                  PLAN FUNDS

 

  • 7.1. Plan Providers must comply with the FPA’s Rules relating to the security of the plan In particular, those Rules require Plan Providers to either:

 

  • 7.1.1 Pay money received for funeral plans, as soon as practicable, into an account maintained by trustees (the majority of whom must be unconnected with the Plan Provider) who have been approved by the FPA.

 

  • 7.1.2 Have the funds invested by an independent fund manager who is authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act

 

  • 7.1.3 Have the trust funds audited annually and reviewed by an actuary.

 

  • 7.1.4 Only use the trust funds for their proper purpose; or

 

7.2 Apply money received for funeral plans, as soon as practicable towards a contract of whole life assurance with an authorised person who has permission to effect and carry out such contracts of

 

 

8.                  COMPLAINTS AND DISPUTES

 

  • 8.1 The FPA defines a complaint as: Any expression of dissatisfaction raised by a customer or on behalf of a customer whether oral or written, justifiable or not.

 

  • 8.2 A Plan Provider must have a clearly defined and documented Complaints Process.

 

  • 8.3 Plan Providers must allow complaints to be made by any reasonable means.

 

  • 8.4 A Plan Provider must put in place appropriate management controls and take reasonable steps to ensure that in handling of complaints it identifies and remedies any recurring or systemic

 

  • 8.5 A customer who is dissatisfied with the service provided by a Plan Provider should, in the first place, contact that Plan Provider who must acknowledge receipt of the complaint to the customer in writing within 7 working days of receiving a complaint.

 

  • 8.6 A Plan Provider must provide contact details of the FPA to a customer in the final letter to a complainant and in any holding letter if the complaint is not resolved within 8 weeks of the Plan Provider receiving it.

 

  • 8.7 If a Plan Provider cannot resolve a complaint to the customer’s satisfaction, the customer should contact the FPA (whose address and telephone number are set out below). The FPA provides an independent conciliation and arbitration service.

 

  • 8.8 Plan Providers are required to co-operate with the customer redress procedures and to participate in the independent conciliation and arbitration service mentioned in paragraph 7. Plan Providers are bound by an arbitrator’s decision, subject to the right of the Plan Provider or the customer to seek a review of the decision.

 

 

  • 8.9 If in the course of any conciliation, or following the conclusion of any arbitration, it appears that a Plan Provider has infringed this Code of Practice, the FPA may take disciplinary action against that Plan Provider in accordance with its Rules.

 

  • 8.10 Plan Providers must provide on all price lists and other promotional material an address and email address (or, if this is not practicable, a telephone number) to which communications may be directed.

 

  • 8.11 Plan Providers must have copies of this Code of Practice available to distribute to customers and others free of charge.

 

  • 8.12 Plan Providers must display the logo of the FPA at their place of business and on all price lists and other promotional material.

 

  • 8.13 Plan Providers must co-operate fully with those representing consumers including trading standards officers, Citizens’ Advice Bureau or other consumer advisers.

 

 

9.                  SUPPLIERS, SELLERS OR PROVIDERS OF SERVICES

 

  • Under the FPA Rules, Plan Providers are responsible for the acts and omissions of any third party they work with in providing funeral Consequently, they should have procedures in place to ensure that any third party is operating in line with this Code of Practice and the FPA Rules. The FPA is aware that the situation could arise where more than one Plan Provider, and potentially providers that are not registered with the Authority, may be working with any third party. This does not absolve the Plan Provider from the requirements set out in this section 9 of the Code of Practice.

 

  • As a minimum the FPA would expect a Plan Provider to:

 

  • carry out due diligence before working with a new third party;

 

  • have in place a written contract;

 

  • ensure contractual arrangements require the third party to operate in line with the FPA Rules and Code of Practice;

 

  • ensure that contractual arrangements between the Plan Provider and the third party would cover the right to control messages and marketing materials, requirements in respect of training, requirements in respect of monitoring including access to the source of all data used in the sales process;

 

 

  • set remuneration arrangements, which should not result in product bias or customer detriment either through incentivising inappropriate selling processes and sales or undermining the financial position of the Plan Provider in a manner that risks the ability to deliver any new plan or existing plans;

 

  • restrict the use of sub-agents without specific permission from the Plan Provider (and in any event after appropriate due diligence has been conducted by the Plan Provider); and

 

  • have appropriate termination rights and processes so the Plan Provider can terminate if the third party

 

  • Plan Providers should have in place a clear, structured and documented on-boarding process for any new third

 

  • Plan Providers should monitor the third party operation to ensure that the FPA Rules and Code of Practice are being adhered Such monitoring should be clearly documented and available for inspection on request by the FPA.

 

  • Where a Plan Provider is working with a third party who is working with other funeral plan providers this does not absolve the Plan Provider in respect of their responsibility to ensure the third party is complying with the FPA Rules and Code of

 

 

  1. DATA PROTECTION        ACT       1998      AND       GENERAL        DATA PROTECTION REGULATIONS 2018

 

  • Plan Providers must ensure that they comply fully with GDPR requirements, this includes but is not limited to, asking for customer consent to hold and use personal data, recording consent, managing consent and withdrawal of

 

  • Plan Providers must co-operate fully with the FPA recognising the specific consent given to FPA by customers under data protection regulations to share and discuss customer data for the sole purpose of investigating complaints under clause 7.

 

 

11.              PLEDGE TO CUSTOMERS

 

All Plan Providers shall co-operate in the delivery of the FPA’s “Pledge to Customers” by which, in the event of the insolvency of a Plan Provider, the other Plan Providers will examine ways in which the FPA might assist in arranging delivery of the funeral of the customers of the insolvent Plan Provider. The extent of this co- operation will be at the discretion of the individual Plan Providers.

 

Anyone who experiences difficulty in obtaining services under a funeral plan because a Plan Provider or funeral director is insolvent or no longer in business should immediately contact the FPA.

 

 

 

 

 

Funeral Planning Authority CiC

Barham Court, Teston, Maidstone, Kent, ME18 5BZ Telephone: 0845  601 9619

e-mail:   info@funeralplanningauthority.co.uk

website:   www.funeralplanningauthority.co.uk

© Funeral Planning Authority CiC April 2019

Funeral Planning Authorities Rule Review Findings 2019

I am sure that the FPAs report is not designed to stiffle competition – to the detriment of consumers – but that is exactly what will happen if it is adopted as is – see Question 15 below.

Formal Response to August 2018 Consultation on FPA Rules and Code of Practice April 2019

In August 2018 the FPA issued a consultation document to all FPA registered providers and other stakeholders outlining of our thinking regarding proposed changes to our Rules. We asked specific questions that we welcomed responses to, and we also welcomed general input on any aspect of our proposals. Similarly, we outlined our thinking regarding changes to the Code of Practice and provided a draft version for review.

 

Consultation responses were invited by 14 September 2018, with our aim being to finalise our way forward by 31 December 2018. The new Rules and Code of Practice would then be put in place with appropriate transitional provisions as necessary to ensure a smooth implementation. Following receipt of consultation responses, the FPA Board considered them and a further discussion was held at the FPA Stakeholder Group meeting on 6 November 2018. This Group had been provided with a high level summary of responses as part of the meeting pack.

 

The FPA received input pre-consultation responses from the Stakeholder Group meeting on

26 June 2018, which were broadly supportive of the changes being proposed. Formal responses to the consultation were received from 8 companies.

 

Having taken note of all input received and considered the various arguments put forward, the FPA Board have prepared this summary of response together with conclusions on our intended way forward. This includes revisions to the Rules and Code of Practice. These are final documents and our intention is that these new Rules and Code of Practice take effect from 1 January 2020. In the meantime the FPA will be seeking input from providers on their readiness to comply with the new Rules and Code of Practice.

 

Q.1   Do you agree the suggested principles governing the Rules and Code of Practice are appropriate? What suggestions do you have, if any, for amending this set of Principles?

 

There was general agreement that these principles were appropriate. It was suggested we should consider amendments on:

 

  • Changing “not obstruct competition” to “promote competition to the benefit of theconsumer”

 

  • Change sales methods to sales channel or sales model to ensure there is no confusion over how our Rules / CoP might react to poor sales

 

The FPA believe these proposed changes make sense and appropriate amendments have been made.

 

Q.2   Do our proposals around plan allocation adequately address the concerns that arise from the lack of allocation of plans? Do you have any suggestions as to how the proposal could be developed?

 

There was a strong sense in responses that the FPA should go further than we proposed and require allocation. This was further emphasised at the discussion of the Stakeholder Group, with support from both providers and funeral directors. We recognise that this needs to be a prospective rule and that for existing plans there are more challenges. We also recognise that there is debate as to what allocation means in terms of whether we means allocated to a particular FD or to a particular branch of that FD.

 

Having considered the weight of feedback we are persuaded by the arguments and consequently have changed our proposed Rules to require allocation at or around point of sale to a funeral director company (not necessarily an individual branch) for new plans after 1 January 2020. The Rules require that a customer is made aware of that allocation sufficiently within their cooling off period to allow them to cancel if they are unhappy with the allocation. The Rules also require that the allocated funeral director is explicitly aware the plans has been allocated to their business.

 

We have also suggested that for plans sold prior to 1 January 2020 registered providers need to provide us with a report confirming details of the current status of all plans in terms of allocation and confirmation as to whether customers are aware of that allocation.

 

Q.3     Do our proposals around accounting for guarantees help ensure that where guarantees are sold to customers they can be delivered? If not, have you further suggestions as how we might achieve this objective?

 

There was general support for this proposal with a requirement to clarify language and some detail. We have incorporated further wording to clarify our intentions.

 

Q.4   Does our proposed Asset Adequacy Report represent an acceptable way forward in mitigating any consumer risk from provider failure? If not, how could the proposal be improved?

 

There was general support for the ideas behind this report. It was noted there was a need to cover future instalments, perhaps be more specific on what we mean by wholesale price and ensure the existence of the report doesn’t distort trust / insurance models. There were questions raised as to what this report adds on top of the actuarial valuation. Our view is the purpose is quite different and the proposed report is about ensuring that, should provider failure happen, the process is thought through and that there are sufficient assets available.

 

We intend to move forward with this proposal but with flexibility for the Registered Provider to choose the valuation date as either the calendar year end or their financial year end. To assist with understanding our requirements we have added an appendix providing further guidance.

 

Q.5    Do any of the alternative ways of enhancing the valuation of liabilities and or providing additional solvency cover provide a better customer outcome and why?

 

There were a few suggestions supporting alternative but also a recognition of the challenges of implementing (for example getting agreement from professional bodies). Given this feedback we have chosen not to pursue any alternative options.

 

Q.6   Do you agree with the proposal to keep any report private with the flexibility for providers to publish if they wish?

 

There was a mix of responses here with some suggesting more transparency and greater publication. Having discussed this, the FPA view is that we should begin by keeping these reports confidential and then separately consider publication in the future when reports have been developed and we have issued further guidance on what we might consider as best practice.

 

Q.7    Do you agree it is helpful to have Principles of Business set out in the Code of Practice?

 

It was broadly agreed these were helpful and noted that we should ensure Rules are consistent with these Principles. We believe that they are and will seek to ensure any future amendments stay true to the Principles.

 

Q.8   Do you agree with our proposed approach to guidance we have issued? If not, why not?

 

This was generally agreed and it was suggested that moving forward the Rules would benefit from additional guidance, which is a feedback point we will take on board and seek to implement across a range of areas.

 

Q.9     Is our definition of vulnerable customers sufficiently clear? How could it be improved?

 

The feedback we received suggested that we needed to revisit our definition and provide greater clarity. We received some helpful suggested wording and encouragement to look further at FCA definitions. We have done so and a revised definition is included in the revised Rules.

 

There was also a suggestion that we should make it mandatory for providers to have a vulnerable customer policy. This was heavily supported at the Stakeholder Group discussion in November 2018 and we have incorporated this into the revised Rules / CoP

 

Q.10  Is our proposed minimum cooling off period acceptable? If not why not?

 

This was supported with further comments that there needs to be clarity on when the period starts and potentially consideration in the future for the period to be extended. We have incorporated further amendments to clarify our view.

 

Q.11   Are our additional requirements in relation to customer information appropriate? How could they be improved?

 

These proposals were broadly supported, with some concern raised over a small number of specific points. On FMP plans one provider did not support the idea of disclosing the maximum amount that might be paid under an FMP plan, and another thought we should go further in our requirements more in line with the Financial Promotions regime.  The FPA Board have considered the various points raised and in relation to the FMP requirement, have amended the position to require providers as a minimum to disclose the age at which the contributions paid to the FMP based funeral plan will equal the current cost of the equivalent plan paid by a lump sum. Alternatively (or in addition) the provider can disclose the maximum amount that would be paid for the plan if contributions continue until age 90.

 

Q.12  Is our definition of a complaint appropriate? How could it be improved?

 

There is support for a definition of a complaint, and suggestions that we should differentiate between customer complaints and other complaints such as FD disputes with providers. We will look further at this. More significantly, comments were made about having two tiers of complaint more along the lines of the revised FCA complaints definition. This effectively involves separating low level expressions of dissatisfaction, which have no material impact (financially or otherwise) on the customer from more significant complaints. We have considered this and believe that such a caveat would require providers to demonstrate they could identify the expressions of dissatisfaction and evidence how they determine whether any particular situation falls into one category or another. Given this, and the relatively low level of complaints in the industry, we see little merit in adding additional complexity. Of course, none of this precludes firms having their own separation on this basis. We will therefore continue with our proposed definition with a minor clarification to highlight that the complaint has to come from a customer or someone complaining on the customer’s behalf.

 

Q.13    Are our proposed complaints reporting requirements appropriate? How could they be improved?

 

These were broadly supported with requests for further guidance from the FPA on complaint categorisation and root cause. We will seek to issue further guidance in due course.

 

Q.14   Do you agree with the incorporation of the requirements re third parties directly into the Code of Practice? If not, why not?

 

These proposals are supported with acknowledgment that complying puts a burden on firms.

 

Q.15   Do you agree with the proposed requirements for Registered Providers in respect of third parties? If not, why not?

 

There was general agreement on these requirements. Some concern was raised over firms selling more than one provider’s plans, further heightened when a combination of FPA / Non FPA providers plan are sold. We have considered this but unless such third parties are providers are directly regulated by the FPA (which is currently not a feasible solution) we cannot see an easy solution to not make this a requirement for FPA providers.  Ultimately, if a provider cannot oversee what such third parties are doing then the provider should not be working with them.

Comment from the Prepaid Funeral Review Team.

Q15 will stiffle the development of competition and of the sort of Independent Advice which we give by making it far more difficult to work with multiple FPA Members and impossible to work with both FPA members and non members,  We have had cause to complain about both members and non members, so we believe this would be a step to far in protecting consumers – competition and multiple choices has to be best for consumers, as is Independent Financial Advice.

Q.16  Do you think our approach to training and competency is sufficient?

 

There was a general agreement but a question was raised about whether there should be a separate section in CoP that goes further and explains the concept of Fit and Proper and our interpretation of it.  The FPA Board have considered this and have added additional guidance in our Rules as to how fitness and property is assessed.

 

Q.17    Do you agree with our proposed approach to commission disclosure and also disclosure of all aspects of the value chain including commercial arrangements between Registered Providers and Funeral Directors? Please explain your reasoning.

 

There was general agreement on proposals with one dissenter suggesting disclosure of both commission paid and amount set aside to pay the funeral. The FPA Board has recognised this is an issue that needs further consideration and we will be pursuing further investigation of the issues involved.

 

Q.18  Do you agree we should not seek to ban particular approaches to selling?

 

There was general agreement that we should not be seeking to ban approaches to selling. However, there was a caveat that if something is clearly bad for customers then we should ban and not rely on anti-competitive arguments to support no action. The FPA Board accept this and will ensure our Rules are focussed around customer protection.

 

Q.19   Do you agree with the suggested approach of granting the Compliance Committee additional powers including the ability to level fines and make suspension of registration public? If not, why not?

 

The responses were supportive but there was a clear message that the Rules need to be clearer with regard to the role of the Compliance Committee and Disciplinary Process. There was support for making the outcome of any disciplinary process public as long as firms are given right to appeal before publication. The Rules have been amended to add further clarity and address comments raised without changing the role of the Compliance Committee and the Disciplinary Process.

 

Q.20   Do you agree a limit of £10,000 on the fine that can be levied by the Compliance Committee is appropriate? Please explain your reasoning.

 

It was noted that this needs to be more clearly explained in the Rules but general acceptance of the proposal. The Rules have been amended accordingly to increase clarity.

 

Q.21   Do you agree with the proposal to allow the FPA to appoint a skilled person on the basis suggested? If not, why not?

 

This was supported but with a caveat that there needs to be sufficient protections in place to ensure the FPA used such a power in a proportionate and controlled manner. Having considered this, the FPA Board has added a further constraint that any such proposal to instigate a skilled persons report has to be explicitly agreed by the FPA Board. The Rules have been amended to reflect this additional condition.

 

Q.22   Do you agree with the proposal to increase the maximum fine the FPA can levy? Please explain your reasoning.

 

This was agreed, recognising the requirement for further clarity noted in response to questions 19 and 20.

 

 

Q.23    Do you agree that the suggested levels of the maximum fine are appropriate? Please explain your reasoning.

 

This was agreed, recognising the requirement for further clarity noted in response to questions 19 and 20. It was also noted that we need to clarify what is meant by turnover. Additional wording has been added to this effect.

 

Q. 24 Do you agree with our proposal to allow a Disciplinary Panel to require the FPA to make the result of a Disciplinary Decision Notice public? Please explain your reasoning.

 

This was broadly supported, subject to having appeals processes that were completed before publication of any Disciplinary Decision Notice. The Rules have been amended to clarify this point.

 

 

Pay Monthly Funeral Plans?

Monthly Payment Funeral Plans – what is available?

Most funeral plans allow monthly payments to be spread over 12 months, some over 24 months and some even longer – with no interest! Not that you will see interest mentioned these days, it will be called an “admin fee.”

But you must pay off in full within the interest-free period or the “admin fee” will be backdated but if it turns out that you can’t afford a full plan just now, there are alternatives.

As you will see, some monthly plans can be paid off over as long as 40 years – though you have to be under 50 to be allowed that long!  Always bear in mind that funeral costs seem to continue to rise far faster than normal inflation – or savings!

You can always set up a partial plan – everything helps!

pay monthly funeral plansEven if you can’t afford to pay the full costs of a monthly funeral plan, you can at least relieve those left behind of a part of the cost of paying for your funeral with a plan which just covers the funeral directors fees and not the third party costs such as crematorium, minister, interment (digging the grave for burial). The cost of a burial plot is not in a funeral plan as they vary from a few hundred pounds to well over ten thousand pounds.

Avoid Over 50s Insurance Plans.

The temptation is to go for one of the Over 50s insurance plans where every penny can be lost if a few instalments are missed at any time.  We accept that they have a place in the market, but we doubt if many ever pay out enough to pay for a funeral, assuming they are not cancelled accidentally before then.

In terms of cost per month, depending on your age, costs can be from £14 to £20 a month for a very basic plan. One plan is £6.25 a month for a 50-year-old – but it is insurance based and you have to pay every month until you are 90 (or die before then!) But at least it guarantees a funeral, even though very basic.

But I have a Deposit

Some companies insist on a minimum deposit, but the bigger the deposit, the lower the monthly contribution.  With current interest rates (Feb 2019) you won’t be earning much interest on savings accounts, and funeral costs are rising far more rapidly, so a funeral plan is a better “investment” for most people.

How low can monthly premiums be?

This depends on which plan is the best fit for you (remember, we are independent, so look for the best deal for you) and your age.  Most monthly plans are over a maximum of 10 years, with one or two going to 15 years or even longer.  But most insist that the plan is paid in full by the age of 85.

Contact us on 0800 0588 240 or use the enquiry form to the right – we promised no hard sell, just honest, independent advice.

Independent Advice Needed on Funeral Plans

and that is where we come in! No pressure, just Independent Advice. Here is an article from Golden Leaves:

Most Middle Aged Consumers prefer to purchase Funeral Planning products away from the Funeral Home!

New research by Funeral Planning firm, Golden Leaves, has revealed that the majority [62%] of middle-aged consumers, aged 50 – 65, and over 46% of consumers over 66 years of age believe funeral plans should be purchased alongside other ‘later-life planning’ products, such as a Will, rather than purchased via a Funeral Home.

The survey, which questioned 1,050 consumers between the ages of 50 and 85 on their perceptions of the funeral planning sector, also revealed that over a third [35%] of consumers aged 50 – 65 felt anxious or distressed with the idea of having to visit a funeral parlour in order to purchase a funeral plan.

This behaviour was confirmed by the fact 65% of respondents within this age bracket who had purchased a plan, had done so via a Funeral Planning firm, Will writer, Financial Advisor or Legal Services company.

Conversely, in analysing the responses from consumers aged 66 – 85, both consumer behaviour towards purchasing the product, and perception towards funeral parlours, does change with age.

Results show that over half [54%] of consumers between the ages of 66 – 85 didn’t believe that funeral plans needed to be associated with ‘later life’ planning products, where a massive 84%advised they didn’t feel anxious or concerned with having to purchase a funeral plan directly from a funeral business.

The research, therefore, demonstrates that although middle-aged consumers understand the important role of a funeral plan, they would feel more comfortable in purchasing it as part of the ‘later-life’ planning process via a dedicated firm or financial advisor; where the vast majority of more elderly consumers expressed no concern at having to enter a funeral parlour, confirmed by the fact 55% of 66 – 85 year old’s advised they had or would purchase a funeral plan from a Funeral Director.

On discussing the research, Barry Floyd, Managing Director of Golden Leaves, said:

“This latest research is extremely telling and very much aligns with Golden Leaves’ experience of consumer behaviour associated with the purchase of funeral plans spanning the last decade at least.”

“For many people, entering a Funeral Parlour can seem a finite and scary experience, yet they understand the importance of having a Funeral Plan in place to avoid burdening their loved ones with associated costs. Ultimately, for consumers in the 50 – 65 age demographic, aligning funeral plans with other ‘later-life’ planning products, such as will writing, is a natural association that focuses on the importance of maintaining control, whilst removing it from a morbid funeral parlour environment.”

Other key take outs from the survey include:

  • Despite the age bracket of consumers surveyed, just 65% confirmed they had written a will, with just 24% advising they had purchased Life Insurance.
  • 46% of respondents believe that the average funeral costs between £2,000 – £4,000, with 44% of respondents believing the average funeral to cost between £4,000 – £6,00
  • 51% of respondents thought the average Funeral Plan costs between £10 – £25 per month, with 37% believing plans to cost between £25 – £50 per month.

Barry continued:

“Considering the current political appetite to potentially reform the regulation around the funeral planning product, it is important that HM Treasury and policy makers understand that careful consideration needs to be applied when constructing any new regulatory framework.”

“The majority of middle-aged consumers and even 46% of consumers aged 66 – 85 would rather associate funeral plans with later-life planning, as opposed to the somewhat scary environment of a funeral parlour, which means funeral plan providers and other estate planning, will-writing,   financial or legal representatives need to be able to offer these products to fulfil the clear and considerable consumer demand.”

“The growth witnessed by the sector over the last decade, has been largely delivered by consumers buying from funeral planning companies and their reselling agent networks amongst other non-funeral-based distributers. This has actually led to increased market competition, effectively driving costs down whilst keeping operational standards high in order to attract and benefit consumers.”

As one of the first to introduce the funeral plan product to the UK market, Golden Leaves are widely recognised as being one of the UK’s oldest and most reputable Funeral Planning companies.

Chairman of Golden Leaves, Steve Rowland added: “Golden Leaves are supportive of increased regulation but we firmly believe that it should not reduce consumer choice, increase costs for the consumer, or distort the market in such a way that delivers poor consumer outcomes.”

What to wear at a funeral

what to wear at a funeralDeciding what to wear at a funeral without guidance from the family can be difficult. Wearing formal suits and ties and dark dresses used to be the order if the day. But no more. Now it is about celebrating life and Mintel found seven in ten (68%) over 50s like the idea of a funeral being a celebration of life rather than an “old style” ceremony. That rose to 76% of women aged 50 to 64.

Nearly two thirds over 50 would prefer to discuss what sort of funeral they would like. Only around one fifth don’t want to talk about it at all, and we have developed a tool for them to quietly express their views, should they wish too.

One of the biggest benefits of talking about your own funeral is avoiding the issues which very often arise with different family members having different opinions. At stressful times, these conflicts can split a family forever, which is no the legacy most people would wish for.
Whether you opt to provide financially for your funeral, or just think it is a good idea to make your wishes known to avoid uncertainty, please do get in touch.
As such, perhaps it is unsurprising that the funeral market has been resilient through the downturn despite the declining mortality rate, rising by 38.5% between 2009 and 2014, or by just under 7% a year in that time. The funeral market in 2014 is estimated to be worth just over £2 billion, up from £1.5 billion in 2009 with the average cost of a basic UK funeral in 2014 stood at £3,609. Strangely, a prepaid funeral plan can cost less than a funeral, due to the the plan providers buying power.

Showing that most Brits are not averse to planning for their farewell, less than two in five (17%) UK adults aged over 50 admit they haven’t taken any steps to prepare for their funeral. Furthermore, over a quarter (26%) have put four or more steps in place. In addition, almost one in six (16%) have a written set of funeral arrangements in place.
When it comes to paying for their funeral, half (49%) of Brits over 50 say think that all or part of the cost of their funeral will be met from the value of their estate and three in 10 (30%) say they have savings set aside specifically to cover their funeral. In a lot of cases, that money may not be available for months – until a Grant of Probate has been obtained. The family will, of course, have to pay or enter a loan agreement before the funeral can take place. Additionally, over a quarter (28%) have a whole-of-life insurance plan that they think will cover their future funeral costs, though many holders of Over 50s insurance (or their families) will be sadly disappointed. Please to read the article on these products if you or a family member have one: there are ways of making the situation more secure.

Since Mintel wrote their original article in 2014, the number of people investing in prepaid funeral plans has soared, though only a tiny proportion has realised that free independent advice (from us) is available, and maybe another plan would have been a better deal. But any proper prepaid funeral plan is far better than none.   Strangely, the biggest resistance to prepaid plans comes from the people who stand to benefit most from them – the children. It is they who don’t want to face the fact that their parents are not immortal!

Pre-paid funeral plans are the only sensible way of putting money aside for your funeral, but there are many options and benefits which some plans have and others don’t. So the salesman will do a great job of selling his or her own plan, but won’t know much about the benefits of the other plans in the market – which is why our free Independent Advice is so important.

So, what should you wear at a funeral?

Ideally, you should fit in with the plans of the deceased, but (again, ideally) the funeral invitation or notice should give you an idea.  If in doubt it is probably best to be cautious and stick to dark clothes – you can’t go too far wrong with that!