Transparency: the hot topic

words: Joseph Murren, Scottish Government Liaison Officer, SAIF

Not too many years ago any suggestion of discussing the cost of the funeral with your client would have left funeral directors appalled. ‘The client would not accept it’, ‘it would insinuate clients could not afford it’ and ‘they would be insulted’ were just some of the responses when such a suggestion was made.

Today SAIF members are required by our Code of Practice to make prices visible to all entering their premises. They are also required to make price lists available to clients and furnish every client with a written estimate.

So why, after all this time, is SAIF still facing criticism for lack of transparency on price?

The answer is simple – SAIF members are not complying with the Code of Practice; as a Quality Assurance Inspector, I witness this on a regular basis. Price lists in the arrangement room when they should be on display in reception; no written estimate given; excuses such as: ‘my client does not want to know’, or ‘the client refused it’, or even: ‘I know all my clients and trust them’.

Transparency of price is once again a hot topic for Citizens Advice, poverty action groups and others who attack our industry for overcharging. It is also one of the main planks in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into our profession. Full transparency has to mean visibility on our premises and also extends to prices published online.

Over the coming months much discussion will take place on web pricing and transparency and I firmly believe it will become a statutory requirement to make all our prices visible and available.

During its investigation, the CMA will be performing site visits. It may also engage mystery shoppers. Much of what they record will then be used to form remedies to resolve issues the CMA considers uncompetitive and not in consumers’ interest.

How do you think they will respond if they find members are not complying with the SAIF Code of Practice?

I know from experience that Co-ops and corporates will perform well in this area and I would urge all our members to examine their own procedures and ensure complete compliance with our Code on all areas, but especially transparency.

We signed up and agreed to comply with the Code of Practice when we joined in membership of SAIF – so let’s do it.

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