Despite several inquiries into the funeral industry, government regulators in Australia have failed to tackle ongoing community concerns about rising costs, misleading practices and a growing concentration of market share by two public listed companies – InvoCare and Propel Funeral Partners.
According to eziFunerals, the Australian funeral industry has many similarities to the UK, with large corporate companies controlling market share. 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.
With ongoing concerns about the rising costs of funerals in the UK, their competition regulator has just launched an investigation into the £2bn a year funerals market to see if people are being charged too much when they lay their loved ones to rest.“Customers who buy funerals are grieving and have no idea what a fair price for a funeral is. And sadly they have proved far too easy to take advantage of. This market needs tighter regulation and better protections for consumers. “Everyone will need a funeral eventually, and it’s important that we can be confident we are paying a fair price for a good quality service.” (James Daley, managing director at consumer group Fairer Finance)
Here in Australia, there have been similar concerns about the rising the costs of funerals. However, unlike the UK Competition and Markets Authority, ASIC and the ACCC have been silent in looking at issues in the way the funeral industry operates, including the rate at which the large corporate brands have raised prices in recent years.
It’s time for the funeral industry to regain consumer trust. Most funeral homes in the industry do the right thing, but government regulators in Australia need to act in the interests of consumers, even when there are marketplace reasons not to do so. Only time will tell if Australia’s watchdog will have the courage to follow the UK.