A recent post on Bristol Live covered their investigation into the rising cost of funerals and its impact on families in the city.

Our comment –

Herewith some good and some less than good viewpoints about the funeral industry, from The Bristol Post – “The Bristolian Way of Dying”. As with so many articles, there are numerous criticisms, little evidence and even less solutions.

Let’s consider some of the points……

”It now costs more to die than to live”.  

Comment:

How did they come to that conclusion, with no supporting evidence? 

Exploitation of the bereaved

The article mentions that people in Bristol pay more than £2500 over the odds for an average funeral package compared to the rest of the UK. Later in the article, it is stated we pay more than £1000 over the average.

Comment:

So which figure is correct or indeed evidenced? I can only imagine that statistics and headlines have been lifted from elsewhere, to create a new version of an old story.

The reporter highlights that “the cost of funerals have increased by two thirds in the last ten years”.

Comment: 

This is indeed correct and is supported by the annual Sun Life Cost of Dying Report, although not mentioned. What we then need to read, is more detail of the root causes. I would also ask what other services and products have not seen significant increases over recent years? Consider Energy and Pharmaceuticals to name just two.

(I will respond to many of the costs increases as a separate topic very shortly).

The article then states that The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have allegedly called into question the practice of “companies working with customers in an acute sense of bereavement, and thus vulnerable to pressure sales and exploitation”.

Comment:

That is a broad brush accusation. Who is committing the exploitation? Yes, the vulnerability of the customer is exacerbated by the circumstances surrounding the loss of a loved one. Many of us have been there and it is a very difficult scenario to manage.

However, I would point out, that such a scenario can be pre-empted and thus avoided. A pre-paid Funeral Plan, discussed and considered in a comfortable environment- at home – enables a family to make informed decisions in plentiful time, prior to calling on it. Plus, they should fully understand the solution which they have been provided with – not to mention, freezing the Funeral Director’s fees at today’s prices.

Other European countries are far better prepared. In Holland, 72% of the 35yr plus age group have some form of Funeral Planning in place……….they acknowledge the importance and talk about it.

“The Chain Premium”.

Now here is a biggie………this highlights and evidences some cost points, including the fact that chain providers in Bristol appear to cost 65% more than an independent director. It actually raises some good points, so I will say little other than to concur, and let you read it again. I would also welcome James Dunn’s comment “It reduces transparency and makes it harder to compare costs”. So right. 

For me, transparency throughout any process, is something I believe would improve the standards of any one person, in any business, in any industry. It is certainly at the heart of my business.

RIP off Pre-paid Plans:

This likens the protected funds to “Quasi-Ponzi Schemes”, saying the monies paid to them by new customers are used to pay for the funerals of others. 

Comment: 

So how do all other insurance industry companies operate? They too amass funds from customer premiums and pay out when you need to claim. Regulation may indeed help to more fully secure these funds within Trusts where needed, but the majority are managed by professional companies and stand independently from the Funeral Plan providers. With regard to my Funeral Plans, if ALL policyholders were to die today, there are still monies remaining in the fund. What more could you ask for? 

In addition, the Trusts holding the funds, protect the customer in the event a company goes out of business………..the Trust will continue to dispense required funeral expenses to the funeral Director. 

 Summary:

Overall, one can only realise that any misunderstandings surrounding Funeral Planning, can only be rectified by everyone taking responsibility AND talking about the subject. In addition, all parties involved could perhaps be far more focussed on transparency and excellent customer service. At the end of the day, that is our job.