Funeral Directors are now pushing for more regulation of the funeral industry after a Law Commission report made 127 recommendations to modernise the Burial and Cremation Act (1964).
Just like Australia (except WA), there are no background checks for prospective funeral directors in New Zealand and no grounds for refusing registration, which is purely for record-keeping purposes.
According to Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand chief executive, David Moger, “What we’re seeing with these new operators coming into the market is they’re driven by business opportunity, the opportunity to be a disruptor in the market, the opportunity to just run a business without understanding the vulnerableness of families at that point,”
The Health Ministry says it’s reviewing funeral laws which haven’t changed since the 1960s. Source: 1 NEWS
Should Funeral Directors in Australia be more regulated?
In February 2020, ACCC Chair Rod Sims announced the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities. This announcement included a focus on the funeral industry. The following is an extract from this announcement.
‘Competition and consumer issues in the funeral services sector have long provoked complaints from the public, governments and generated stories in the media. Not least because many consumers engage with the funeral sector at a time when they are grieving, vulnerable and thereby at a disadvantage.
This is a concentrated sector with some players having significant market power. As some funeral service providers also have a large share of different services across the funeral home, cemetery and crematoria markets, there is an opportunity for these providers to bundle services and block new entrants to the market. There have been reports from people within the sector of anti-competitive conduct such as misuse of market power and exclusive dealing. We strongly encourage whistleblowers to come forward.
Funerals are expensive. Many consumers have limited or no experience with the sector until they need to arrange one. There is growing criticism about the lack of price transparency for funeral services and the difficulties consumers face in making an informed decision.
There are also complaints from consumers about misleading and deceptive practices in the sector. These include hidden fees, add-on services not included and misrepresentations about what will be covered. Additionally there are allegations of unfair contract terms within funeral service and pre-paid funeral contracts.
Most concerning are allegations of unconscionable conduct. There are allegations that some funeral operators inflate the price of services, and take advantage of consumers at a vulnerable time. Complex and opaque pricing, product bundling and other strategies adopted by some funeral operators are also issues we will be examining more closely.
By selecting this as a priority, we aim to improve our understanding of the market and undertake targeted action.’
Despite the ACCC, earlier this year, announcing that the funeral industry was on their radar, our government appears slow in monitoring the way the funeral industry operates nationally.
eziFunerals is of the view that most funeral directors in Australia do the right thing, but government regulators still need to act in the interests of consumers, even when there are marketplace reasons not to do so.
Only time will tell if the fallout from the UK and New Zealand funeral inquiries will have serious flow on effects for the funeral industry in Australia.
What do you think?
eziFunerals supports individuals and families cope 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 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.