FAMILIES could be paying thousands of pounds over the odds for their loved ones’ funerals as it’s been revealed that providers charge up to 193 per cent more than a rival firm just five minutes down the road.
An investigation by The Sun has uncovered that you could pay £3,800 more for similar funeral services from providers just a 1.2 miles apart.
For example, if you live in Glasgow, you’d pay £5,795 for a funeral with T&R O’Brien – part of the Dignity chain, but a similar service could be found for £1,980 – £3,815 less – with Lomond Funeral Services.
And it seems the cheapest options are often provided by independent or family-run firms, while the most expensive in our research were exclusively sold by national chain Dignity.
Ian MacDougall, a director at Lomond Funerals in Glasgow, told The Sun: “The cost of funerals has risen, but the average has not been helped by the likes of Dignity, which has been overcharging for years.
“This isn’t a sector that you see reviews online, such as with Amazon. Funerals are private. We rely on our reputation, on word of mouth.”
What’s more, you might not even be aware that you’re buying a Dignity funeral as it operates locally under different names – for example, Francis Chappell & Sons in south east London, and W Kaye & Son in Leeds.
We’ve also found that it’s a postcode lottery when it comes to fees.
The cheapest quote we found within a five mile range of Glasgow was £1,980.
Yet the least expensive option within five miles of an SE9 postcode in south east London was £3,034 – £1,054 more.
In all cases, we selected a basic funeral, which is made up of funeral director costs, a standard wooden coffin, a limo and a classic hearse, plus a celebrant who manages proceedings on the day.
‘I saved more than £3,000 on my mum’s funeral’
PAUL Buckley from Bristol arranged a funeral for his late mother in February 2018 when she died at the age 93.
The 60-year-old got a quote from Hopkinson, Wootton and Lovatt – a local independent funeral care company – via the Beyond.life comparison tool, as well as a quote from Cooperative Funeral Care direct.
He said: “I didn’t ask them directly for a quote, I found their price online and also looked on Beyond.life for guidance on prices, and compared with the most expensive.
“The price I paid was about £3,000, which was about half the price of the most expensive. But I also found a difference of over £1,000 between the cheapest quotes.”
Paul chose to use the local company not only because it was cheaper, but also because the family had used Hopkinson, Wootton and Lovatt in the past and had been satisfied with the service. He also felt it was more personal.
Only later did Paul discover he could have shaved £60 off the cost of flowers by using a local high street florist who charged £140 instead of the £200 Hopkinson, Wootton and Lovatt charged.
In hindsight, Paul also realised he could have paid for online firm, The Coffin Company, to deliver a coffin to the undertakers for £272, giving a saving of £210 compared to the one he bought from the funeral provider.
The former marketing psychologist, told The Sun: “My mum died at the end of January at her home in a village near Newcastle-Under-Lyme.
“It was not about penny-pinching but if I could get a better price for the same service I didn’t see any point in paying to add to some company’s profits.
“As it was, I saved more than £3,000, and the send-off was exactly what we all wanted.”
James Dunn, founder of the Beyond.life – a funeral services comparison website, said: “Unfortunately, these price differences are totally unsurprising.
“Dignity, in particular, has put through totally unjustified year on year rises, simply because it could.
“While The Co-op still refuses to display its prices transparently online, instead only revealing the cost of its lowest price, heavily-restricted funeral.”
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said last year that it has “serious concerns” about above-inflation price rises and noted that the average cost of a funeral was nearly £4,300.
It says that over the past 14 years, the price of a funeral has grown by 6 per cent each year – twice the inflation rate over this period.
In its interim report into the industry, which was published in November, it proposed the launching of an in-depth investigation into the sector and it is now consulting on whether to go ahead.
Daniel Gordon, senior director of markets at the CMA, said: “People can understandably be very emotionally vulnerable when planning a funeral.
“We therefore think it is important that – at what can be a particularly challenging time – the process is made as easy as possible.”
Dignity told us: “We sometimes find our quotes are more expensive than other funeral directors, but this is often because we are providing more features and professional facilities for the price.”
How to cut funeral costs
First of all, discuss with family what type of funeral is preferred.
Consider whether there are elements, such as catering or flower arrangements that you can do yourself.
Next up do your research; ask friends and relatives to recommend a firm. Doctors and solicitors may also be able to advise.
Failing that, search online for reputable companies, and take note of reviews and compare costs of like-for-like services.
Shopping around is the buzz phrase of the moment and it’s the best way to lower funeral costs – even if it does feel wrong. You can use comparison site Beyond.life to compare costs – although be aware that not all providers are on the Beyond.life service – for example Co-op Funeral Care is missing – so you will need to contact these providers directly for quotes.
Ensure you get a full breakdown of costs and timings for services up-front.
You should also check the firm is a member of a recognised trade association, such as the National Association of Funeral Directors or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.
The firm’s spokesperson added: “We understand the CMA is proposing a full market investigation and take the findings of its interim report very seriously.
“We’ve been voluntarily making changes to our business for some time and will consider the recommendations carefully to ensure our plans deliver against them.
“We’re fully committed to ensuring vulnerable consumers are protected. In October, we introduced the lowest price, nationally available, attended funeral service through Dignity’s Simplicity proposition.
“We’ll be putting our branch funeral prices online by the end of March 2019 and believe all operators should be required to follow suit to ensure greater transparency.”
A spokesperson for Co-op Funeralcare said: “We work hard to make all of our funeral choices clear and accessible. Within our funeral homes, we have upfront, open conversations with families about the prices of different funeral choices.
“On our website we have a comparison table to clearly show what is and isn’t included within our funerals. We’ll also be launching a new online pricing tool shortly which will show all our prices, as well as third party costs.”
We spoke to one grieving mum who said a Universal Credit shambles meant she couldn’t even afford to bury her husband.
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