Treasury hears Independents’ voice

In response to HM Treasury’s (HMT) call for evidence for its market study into pre-paid funeral plans, SAIF has delivered a detailed submission underscoring its longstanding position and views as the trade body exclusively representing independent funeral directors.

Welcoming the market study, SAIF said it had long held consumer protection as a key pillar of its work with Independents, and it wished to convey several themes to HM Treasury.

The purchase of a funeral plan is much more than a financial transaction. The gradual development of the funeral plan in the UK has delivered peace of mind to the consumer in having paid for their funeral arrangements, and has provided the consumer with protection against funeral price inflation. The funeral service remains a poignant event and one that is often needed by the consumer to handle their grief and move forward. Therefore, SAIF strongly urges HMT to view the funeral, including the pre-need funeral plan, as much more than a financial transaction.

The role of the independent funeral director is in guiding clients to their bespoke funeral of choice. Two-thirds of the “at need” market is delivered by independent, family-owned funeral directors. Many people know, respect and trust their local funeral director and therefore when considering taking out funeral plans, they talk to them with confidence and trust, and feel comfortable in speaking with them. SAIF feels very strongly that this holistic method of ensuring the funeral plan meets the client’s needs is fully understood and will not be made overly burdensome or impossible with new regulations.

Independent funeral directors are service orientated – their name is above the door. Independents are renowned in their communities for their caring and professionalism. It makes a significant difference having one’s name and business reputation above the office front door. Independents will go far and beyond the minimum requirements of customer service to facilitate their clients at a unique and delicate time. SAIF cannot emphasise enough how this service orientation is in the DNA of independent funeral directors and that funeral plans are more than a product.

Pre-need funeral plan regulation needs to work for the small to medium size independent funeral director. SAIF is concerned that regulation will warp the market as has occurred in other sectors, such as the security transport industry, an observation made by the Inspector of Funeral Directors, Scottish Government. The “unintended consequences” of a purist implementation of regulation could result in distorting the competitive market and lead to consumers having less choice with the demise of independent funeral firms due to the bar for compliance being too high for small to medium firms to manage.

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