The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the UK funeral industry, has potential implications for the industry and intermediaries in Australia.
The CMA has announced it’s latest action to limit the role of intermediaries, such as aged care, hospices and hospitals, in influencing consumers’ selection of funeral directors.
Under the new rules, funeral directors will be banned from making payments to incentivise hospitals, hospices, aged care homes or similar institutions for referring customers to a particular funeral director. They are also blocked from soliciting business through coroner and police contracts.
The legally enforceable rules are being brought in after a funeral industry investigation by the competition watchdog found evidence of cases of the deceased being moved from aged care homes or hospices either without families’ consent or with families finding it difficult to assert their own preferences.
What the funeral investigation found?
The CMA examined the extent to which certain circumstances of a person’s death – whether the death was expected, where the death occurred, the actions of intermediaries (in particular, care homes, hospices and hospitals, and the involvement of the coroner) – may influence the choice of funeral director.
The investigation found that:
- There is evidence that some staff in aged care homes, hospices and hospitals are providing recommendations to their residents and the relatives of their residents on which funeral director to contact.
- There is evidence that some funeral directors seek to build relationships with aged care providers, and some funeral companies are using targeted marketing initiatives that could have a distorting effect on consumer choices.
- There is evidence that where the funeral director takes the deceased to the coroner’s premises, there may be an opportunity for the funeral director to make contact with the bereaved, and this may give the funeral director an advantage in terms of influencing their choice of funeral director. This is stronger where the funeral director has an arrangement with the coroner.
As indicated above, the findings from the CMA investigation has similar parallels to the Australian marketplace and is likely to impact on the way the industry operates here.
eziFunerals is aware aware of occasions where hospitals have agreed to release of a body to a funeral director without viewing and recording written authorisation from the family for collection of the body. This can cause unnecessary distress to the bereaved as the body has been taken to the funeral home without their consent and selection of a Funeral Director to conduct the funeral.
‘In a recent case, a women called a funeral home to inquire about a funeral service but says she didn’t authorise the funeral home to take any further action.
Following the initial call , the family contacted another funeral home. The family felt more comfortable with the way they treated by the other funeral home and immediately made arrangements for her mother and paid the bill.
Her uncle went to the hospital to pick up her mother’s personal possessions, including her purse, her wallet, her private correspondence, her clothing and her jewellery. It was then the family got a big shock.
He was told that the mother’s personal possessions were no longer there and that the mother’s body was no longer there either.’
Given the ongoing investigation into the industry by Australia’s consumer watchdog, the ACCC, it is likely that the relationship between funeral directors, aged care providers, hospital and other intermediaries may be under scrutiny and similar rules may apply in Australia.
eziFunerals supports individuals and families coping with end of life decisions, death and funerals. We are an independent, Australian-owned and operated company. We are not part of any other funeral company.
Our member Funeral Directors operate in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Australia wide. They are chosen for their knowledge, quality, service, personalisation and experience. They go above and beyond, and will take the time to support the family.
For more information or to make contact with a trusted Independent funeral director, call eziFunerals on 1300 236 402 or visit www.ezifunerals.com.au.