The CMA has published provisional conclusions in its investigation into the funerals market and related services. The focus of the proposals are a package of “sunlight” remedies, intended to make pricing and practices in the sector more visible to consumers. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the CMA ruling out, in the short term at least, certain remedies previously under consideration such as price controls.

Provisional conclusions report

The CMA acknowledges that the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on: the running of the investigation; the provisional conclusions that it has been possible to reach; and the timing of the actions proposed. The report concludes that remedies such as price controls could not safely be introduced during the coronavirus emergency. It recommends that the CMA should consider whether a supplementary market investigation is required once conditions have stabilised.

In the meantime, the main focus of the remedies proposed is a package of “sunlight” provisions intended to shine a light for consumers on the pricing and practices of the sector. Additionally, it is provisionally recommended that inspection and registration regimes are established in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to supplement the regime already in place in Scotland.

The sunlight provisions

Amongst the remedies that the CMA proposes as being “feasible and effective in the short term” are:

  • A requirement on all funeral directors to disclose price and particular commercial information to customers to allow them to access and assess the price of funeral services.
  • A requirement on all crematorium operators to disclose price information to customers and funeral directors in the area with a breakdown of what is included.
  • A requirement on funeral directors to disclose other information to customers, such as their ownership structure on their website, any charitable donations being made and their financial involvement in any price comparison websites.
  • Prohibiting funeral directors from conducting certain arrangements, exchange of services and payments with/to third parties such as care homes.  Funeral directors must terminate any existing arrangements or exchange of services with, and stop making payments to, third parties. They are also prohibited from establishing any new arrangements, engaging in any new exchange of services or making any new payments.
  • An obligation on funeral directors and crematoria to provide quarterly key financial data to enabler the CMA to continue to actively monitor. The CMA would also publish an annual review of monitoring activity.

Next steps

The CMA invites comments on its provisional decisions and proposed remedies by 10 September 2020.  Its final report must be published by 27 March 2021 and the CMA have indicated they would like to publish this report in December 2020.

The full Provisional decision report and the Notice of provisional decision report provide the full details of the provisional conclusions.  Should you wish to discuss this with our specialists or wish us to assist in the preparation of a response to the provisional findings, please contact Miles Trower or Bill Hull

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at August 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

Date published

18 August 2020

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