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CMA Proposes Major Funerals Probe Over Large Price Hikes

The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority said that it is consulting on a major funerals probe because of concerns over large price hikes, hitting people at their most vulnerable. The CMA will now be consulting on the potential market investigation reference and welcomes any views on the issues identified in its report by 4 January 2019.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said, "People mourning the loss of a loved one are extremely vulnerable and at risk of being exploited. We need to make sure that they are protected at such an emotional time, and we're very concerned about the substantial increases in funeral prices over the past decade."

The CMA said that Today's interim report presents the issues the CMA has identified since launching a Market Study into the funerals sector six months ago.

The CMA noted that the initial work indicates problems with the market that have led to above inflation price rises for well over a decade - both for funeral director services and crematoria services. The scale of these price rises does not currently appear to be justified by cost increases or quality improvements.

According to the interim report, today, people generally spend between 3,000 pounds and 5,000 pounds organising a funeral, and the price of the essential elements has increased by more than two-thirds in the last 10 years, almost three times the rate of inflation. Organising a funeral would now cost those on the lowest incomes nearly 40% of their annual outgoings, more than they spend on food, clothing and energy combined.

The interim report said that customers could save over 1,000 pounds by looking at a range of choices in their local area. However, people organising a funeral are usually distressed and often not in a position to do this - making it easier for some funeral directors to charge higher prices. Prices are also often not available online, making it difficult to compare options.

Cremations account for 77% of funerals, yet there are limited choices for most people in their local area and fees charged by crematoria have increased by 84% on average in the past 10 years, more than three times the rate of inflation.

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