In a new report on funeral prices, consumer advocate CHOICE has exposed the funeral industry’s harmful pricing tactics which can lead grieving families to pay thousands of dollars extra for basic funeral services.
CHOICE’s investigation, which included the mystery shopping exercise and survey of 548 people who recently organised a funeral, uncovered major issues with pricing practices.
“It is far too hard to find out what exactly you’re paying for when you hire a funeral home. In our national mystery shop of funeral providers, most funeral homes only provided lump sums with no cost breakdown,” says CHOICE Investigative Journalist Saimi Jeong. “Others emailed quotes with varying levels of cost itemisation.”
“We found large differences in costs for a direct cremation with no ceremony, with prices ranging from $1,200 to $5,600.”
“A White Lady funeral home quoted $5,600 for a direct cremation in our mystery shop. When we looked at the costs, over half of this was made up by an opaque ‘professional service fee’.”
“We saw unexplained price differences for services like body viewings. On one end of the scale, a provider was charging $110 for people to view their loved ones, while another charged an outrageous $1,600,” says Ms Jeong.
“Many funeral homes are clearly charging inflated prices and profiting off a lack of price transparency. When you’re grieving, the last thing you need is the added stress of paying for expensive extras.”
The findings in this report are consistent with research into the death care industry in Australia by eziFunerals, a new online funeral platform that is shifting the power back to consumers.
After writing a self-help funeral guide for consumers, eziFunerals founder Peter Erceg, found a lack of transparency throughout the death care industry and customer dissatisfaction, prompting him to launch eziFunerals.
Mr Erceg said factors that concerned him about the funeral industry were the lack of competition given the dominance of the big funeral chains and the lack of consumer awareness around what services were or were not independent.“
“The majority of consumers are not aware that most of the local funeral director businesses are owned by two listed funeral stocks, InvoCare Limited (ASX: IVC) and Propel Funeral Partners (ASX:PFP). Between them they currently control over 40% market share nationally (…and growing)”, he says.
“So, if you’re contracting the services of a local funeral director, it’s important you know the company your dealing with before making that first phone call and it helps to know your rights and understand how the industry operates”, he says.
eziFunerals operates by listing independent funeral homes that subscribe to the platform. The consumer is in total control. Customers are able to create a customised funeral plan, detailing either personalised requirements for their own funeral or the funeral of a loved one, which is posted online for listed funeral homes to browse and respond to with an itemised offer.
“Instead of picking a funeral company by guesswork, families will be able to shop around for funeral directors, and get the right funeral at the right price before proceeding to contract”, said Erceg.
“Unlike other funeral comparison sites, eziFunerals does not get involved with the consumers final selection of funeral provider and we do not receive commissions from funeral directors”, he says.
Learn more about the funeral industry in Australia
Read the CHOICE report here.
eziFunerals supports individuals and families cope with end of life decisions, death and funerals. We are an independent, Australian-owned and operated company, and are not a subsidiary of any other corporation. We do not conduct funerals and we are not part of any other funeral company.