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AUSTRALIAN FUNERAL INDUSTRY INVESTIGATION IS OVERDUE



 Australia’s two largest funeral companies, InvoCare (IVC:ASX) and Propel Funeral Partners (PFP:ASX) will be watching closely for any fallout  from an investigation into the UK funeral industry.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has just announced a launch of an in-depth market investigation into the funeral sector. The competition watchdog says relatives and friends of someone who has died are often too overcome by grief to research funeral prices leaving them open to being ripped off by heartless firms.

  • The rise in cost of organising a funeral, the essential elements of which have increased by 6% each year – twice the inflation rate – for the last 14 years. Funerals typically cost several thousand pounds which is a significant outlay for households.
  • The vulnerability of many people when organising a funeral, which may mean that they are not in a position to look at a range of choices. This appears to have made it easier for some funeral directors to charge high prices.
  • Reluctance of firms to publish/disclose clear prices, including online, or to provide comprehensive information on quality and range, making it difficult for people to compare funeral directors.
  • Low numbers of crematoria providers in local areas, and difficulty for new companies to enter the market due to the planning regime and high fixed costs.
  • High prices in relation to crematoria services – the largest private operators have implemented average price rises of between 6% and 8% each year for the past 8 years and some local authorities have also implemented large increases in fees.‘

Peter Erceg, owner and founder eziFunerals, said the concerns expressed by the CMA, are similar to ongoing concerns here in Australia. People organising a funeral are being exploited at one of the most emotional and stressful times in their lives”, he says.

‘Despite numerous reports about the funeral industry, government regulators in Australia have failed to tackle ongoing community concerns about rising costs, misleading sale practices and a growing concentration of market share by large public listed companies.’

“The monopolisation of the funeral industry is a bad thing for consumers, especially when they are most vulnerable”, says Erceg. The big funeral chains are able to demand higher prices for their service because they have limited competition. They have become immensely powerful and use this power and economies of scale to further benefit shareholders, at the expense of consumers and small family owned funeral businessess.

Only time will tell if the fallout from the UK funeral inquiry will have serious flow on effects for the funeral sector in Australia.

 

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About eziFunerals

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 are not part of any other funeral company.