By Tim Purves

WHEN the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) recently announced it would carry out a full audit of price regulation of funeral services in 2020, it was a decision welcomed by many. However, while we can understand the rationale for a delayed investigation against the current backdrop of a global pandemic, I can’t help but express my disappointment that we will have to wait longer for pricing regulation.

As the cost of dying rises incrementally, more and more people are facing difficulties linked to funeral poverty. This is married with a heightened burden on families and the funeral sector who have had to deal with a spike in deaths due to Covid-19.

Although on the backburner for the time being, pricing regulation remains prudent to protect the interests of everyone concerned with the business of funerals, whether as an individual arranging their loved one’s funeral or a professional working with a bereaved family. This is especially important for the most vulnerable members of our society.

As a sector, we must not delay our own accountability for fair and transparent pricing. Funeral directors have a responsibility to align prices with what is fair and reasonable and to make both pricing and product information readily available in easy-to-read formats. The last thing a bereaved family needs is the added despair caused by a fear of funeral costs and unnecessary confusion.

While some of the larger providers may welcome the CMA’s reprieve on any potential investigation into pricing, independent funeral directors like ours will strive for fairness and remain focused on improving our offer.

We must work together to eradicate the current postcode lottery and the disparity in the cost of dying. It is heart-breaking that the place in which you are born or die could determine whether you pay a premium on funeral costs. A good place to start is by transparently publishing our prices along with clear information about what this includes – a step we have taken across all William Purves branches.

I acknowledge that these are indeed challenging times for all, including the funeral industry which has never before had to navigate such tumultuous seas. This deadly outbreak has taken tens of thousands of lives in the UK alone and put tremendous strain on funeral workers. However, we need to consider the families in the communities around us and how we can continue to support them whilst protecting choice – so that they can plan funerals based on what they want, rather than what they can afford.

That the CMA acknowledges the efforts of the sector during what has been an incredibly challenging time gives a much-deserved nod to our dedicated key workers and colleagues whose dedication often goes unseen.

The emergence of Covid has been harmful to everyone, including the funeral industry. I can’t think of anyone benefiting from this crisis. On a daily basis we have witnessed the heartbreak of not being able to attend a loved one’s funeral or saying goodbye to a neighbour your family has lived beside for decades.

A new report estimates that almost 10 million people were unable to pay their respects to those they have lost due to restrictions, and will now pay the untold emotional cost of not being able to properly grieve – if funeral pricing remains unregulated, our industry risks adding a financial burden to their already unimaginable distress. Now is the time for increased openness and clarity.

Tim Purves is Chairman, William Purves Funeral Directors