Radio times for Terry Tennens

Terry Tennens represented SAIF’s members on not one but two radio shows on 12 August, as he was on Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett’s Show and Radio 4’s You and Yours with Winifred Robinson. This is the view he gave Emma Barnett regarding online pricing and transparency of funeral director costs.

People would be surprised to learn that regulation hasn’t been the case before

“We agree. Anyone can set up as a funeral director across the UK currently, so we welcome the CMA investigation, looking at standards and quality. That’s really why this review group has been set up – looking at quality standards, online pricing etc.”

In terms of the average cost of a funeral, £4,271 – three times rate of inflation over a decade – why is that?

“There are a number of factors. Part of the funeral costs you’ve just quoted will be made up of third-party costs, crematorium, cemetery, celebrants, clergy fees, doctors’ fees.

“We know for example that there’s one council in the West Midlands which has increased cremation costs by 18% and burial costs by 54% – in one year. We have written to them to question why. It’s partly because councils are cash strapped so they’re looking for ways of revenue generation.

“That’s part of the funeral invoice the client will get – 30/50% of the cost. The other side is the funeral professionals’ fees. Certainly, with regards to the members we represent, their increases have been no more than in line with inflation. There are larger groups.”

Where they’re just on the make?

“Well, some would say that.”

Many funeral directors do not publish their prices online. Do you encourage your members to make prices clear?

“There is some background to this, if I could just explain. Some of our members still use fax machines. I thought they went out about 10 years ago. Often these are the more rural funeral directors and they have been embedded in their communities for decades. They know the families that live there, and so it has not been part of their culture.

“But it’s something we’ve said that we need to put pricing online. One of the remits of the group that has been formed is to look at a template of funeral costs so you can compare apples with apples, because there is such variation. We need to put prices online and explain the prices better. The Scottish Government has funeral cost guidance, to demystify the language and explanation of the costs.”

Would your members welcome it becoming an industry which is not open to anyone and everyone?

“A lot of our members have said it’s about time the regulation came in. It needs to be proportionate and sensible and should not marginalise the smaller, family independent funeral director. There’s a welcome, open arms, for that because anyone can set up with no experience or training anywhere.”

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