Peter Erceg says, despite several government inquiries, state governments have failed to tackle ongoing community concerns about misleading practices and a growing concentration of market share by two public listed companies, InvoCare and Propel Funeral Partners.
InvoCare, which operates under recognisable brand names such as White Lady Funerals and Simplicity Funerals currently enjoys a 40% market share and reportedly up to 80% on Australia’s profitable east coast. This is the same company that was fined by the ACCC in 2014 for false and misleading practices on the purchase of memorials for use at burial sites.
Calls for a royal commission are also underpinned by ongoing reports of misconduct within the funeral industry, he said.
The funeral industry in Australia is generally self‐regulated by multiple associations which exist at national and state levels. Membership to one or more of these bodies is voluntary. However, not all funeral directors and/or industry participants are members and subject to a professional code of conduct or sanctions for non‐compliance of industry‐based standards.
For the past decade, we have been regularly told of rampant cost increases, coffin swapping, gouging, upselling, conflicts of interest and misuse of funeral funds driven by a sales culture that has elevated profits above all else.
Funeral finance should also be considered as part of any commission of inquiry, said Peter Erceg.
Funeral insurance and bonds are also raising serious concerns, with consumers at risk of losing thousands of dollars because of a growing “conflict of interest”, according to Peter Erceg.
Peter Erceg said, it’s time for the funeral industry to regain consumer trust. Most funeral homes in the industry do the right thing, but we shouldn’t wait on government regulators to keep our companies in check. The funeral industry and regulators need to commit to acting in the customers’ best interest, even when there are marketplace reasons not to do so. Otherwise, a royal commission into the industry may be the only way to achieve this.