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18 Dec 2020 | 08:19

Funeral operators forced to be honest about costs

(Sharecast News) - Funeral directors will have to be honest about prices and scrap hidden commercial payments under proposals from the UK's competition regulator.

The Competition and Markets Authority said funeral providers and crematorium operators should disclose prices so that customers know the price they are paying and if a deposit is needed.

Customers should also be told about funeral directors' commercial interests. Payments to hospitals, care homes and hospices to refer customers will be banned.

The CMA also called on the government to set up an independent inspector for the industry as a first step towards a broader regulatory regime for funeral services.

Shares of Dignity, the UK's only publicly traded funeral director, fell 0.6% to 675.1p at 08:41 GMT.

The regulator launched a full investigation of the funeral sector in March 2019 after finding that prices rose 6% each year for 14 years. It accused funeral directors of charging high prices when customers were vulnerable.

The CMA originally proposed price controls but scrapped the plan in August because of disruption caused by a surge in deaths from Covid-19.

On Friday the watchdog said it still had serious concerns and that another investigation may be needed when the market settles down. The CMA said it would monitor the sector using information operators will be required to provide it.

Martin Coleman, the CMA's panel inquiry chair, said: "Organising a funeral is often very distressing and people can be especially vulnerable during this time. That's why our remedies are designed to help people make choices that are right for them and ensure they can be confident that their loved one is in good hands.

"The CMA will be keeping a close eye on this sector to make sure our remedies are properly implemented and help it to decide whether further action is necessary when circumstances return to a more steady state."

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