Funeral directors from across the Black Country have joined forces to urge the public to take care when choosing a funeral plan provider.
The warning comes on the back of a recent increase in enquiries about funeral plans observed by H. Porter & Sons in Stourbridge, J Vernon Kendrick Ltd in Lye, Trevor EW Hickton Ltd in Cradley Heath and N. E. Downing Ltd in Blackheath, prompting fears that some people might be taking chances with unregulated online providers.
H Porter & Sons says enquiries in 2018 were up by 136% year on year, whilst the other businesses say they have experienced a rise in the number of calls recently.
The funeral directors say there are a number of pre-paid funeral plan providers which take unreasonable commissions from the sale of plans, potentially leaving the purchaser without enough funds to cover the cost of a funeral. This could result in additional unexpected costs for a funeral and added distress at a time of bereavement.
Funeral plans are a way of paying for a funeral in advance, as a lump sum or by monthly instalments. The sector is currently self-regulated, with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) adding a layer of scrutiny to providers who chose to register. The FPA’s members abide by a code of practice aimed at ensuring plan providers deliver the funeral customers have paid for. Lucy Porter, managing director of H. Porter & Sons, said:
“We’ve noticed a clear increase in enquiries about funeral plans and think it’s important that people take care when investing. There are a number of providers, particularly online, who in our opinion aren’t as transparent with what is included in the plan as they should be and take an excessive commission.
"Our advice is if you do have a quote from an online provider and are unsure, either contact the FPA or your local funeral director who will be able to advise on the plan and alternative options if they feel the plan is inappropriate."
William Downing, of N. E. Downing Ltd, added:
“We’re regularly approached by discount funeral plan providers wanting us to accept funerals from them but the cut they take from the plans is so large that it means we’re unable to assist.
"The plan provider will then go back to the family and say the funeral director wants more money but the reality is that families are unaware that the provider’s fees represent up to 30% of what they’ve paid in. They’ve been misled, in our opinion.”
Further information about funeral plans and FPA registered providers can be found at the FPA’s website at funeralplanningauthority.co.uk.