Pre-paid funeral plans independent review…

…families at risk from significant and unexpected extra costs

Stronger regulation is required for pre paid funeral plans as highlighted in report from Dignity

It was reported by the BBC last week that an independent review of pre-paid funeral plans highlighted a number of potential problems with these plans.

The report was commissioned by Dignity PLC, one of the UK’s largest providers of funerals and related services and it was prepared by the independent consumer research organisation Fairer Finance.

The report’s main conclusion is a call for stronger regulation of the funeral planning industry. It confirms that a pre-paid funeral plan can be a very effective way of planning for the future. Certainly it is a popular way of planning as sales of pre-paid funeral plans have increased five fold since 2006 and now 1.2 million of us have a pre-paid funeral plan.

But the report highlights a number of problems: in many cases there has been persistent and high pressure sales tactics either by the funeral company itself or by third party agents employed by the company; there is widespread misunderstanding by consumers of what their plan actually covers coupled with confusion caused by lack of clarity of the many types of plan available. This has led to many families being asked to pay extra after their family member has died - an unexpected and unwelcome expense. Moreover, there is often poor security of consumers’ money in the intervening years and the report noted that there is actually no security if the provider was to become insolvent.

The report also highlights that there is no compulsory regulation of these plans. Over 75% of respondents commented that as the plans feel like a financial agreement then they expected the industry to be regulated already. 

James Daley, Managing Director and Founder of Fairer Finance, said;

“Funerals have become ever more expensive over the past decade, and pre-paid plans can be a great way of locking in today’s prices, whilst also ensuring your family isn’t left with this significant financial burden after you’re gone. Although there are some reputable providers working in the interests of consumers, the sector has rapidly expanded over the last few years, with our research revealing a worrying number of conduct issues and lack of consumer protection.

"The combination of a fast growing market fuelled by high pressure sales to a potentially vulnerable customer base is creating a perfect storm. A growing number of customers are likely to be let down when their plan is claimed on – with some funeral plan providers passing on significant extra costs to the families. And there is a concern that client money is not always being adequately looked after. Without intervention, we may yet see a Farepak-style collapse in this market, which leaves thousands of customers out of pocket.”

As a result of this report we would advise all owners of pre-paid funeral plans to check what cover you have purchased so that you can be reassured that your helpful forward thinking will provide your family with the funeral you were expecting.

If you would like legal advice on Wills, Trusts or Probate please contact Hunt & Coombs on 01733 882800 or email info@hcsolicitors.co.uk.

Author

Paddy Appleton, Partner

Go back

Subscribe to our RSS feed to receive all of our news updates.

This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.