As the saying goes, there is nothing certain but death and taxes. Just as governments will always need to raise funds, a steady stream of business will always flow into funeral parlours and crematoria.
But this is a business where the ‘customer’ is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the negotiations over the service being purchased and, in particular, the price, because they are grieving.
And so it is almost hard to comprehend that over the last decade – ten years of austerity, effective pay cuts, a housing crisis, rising energy costs and other significant financial – the UK funeral industry appears to have been taking advantage of its unique position.
A report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has found prices have been rising dramatically in the £2 billion funeral market – at almost three times the rate of inflation over the last ten years – and for no good reason.
And cremations, which make up more than three-quarters of all funerals, now cost a staggering 84 per cent more.
The CMA’s chief executive Andrea Coscelli said the watchdog was “very concerned” about “substantial increases in funeral prices” as he revealed it was calling for “the full powers of a market investigation” to address the problems they have found. “People mourning the loss of a loved one are extremely vulnerable and at risk of being exploited. We need to make sure that they are protected at such an emotional time,” he said.
These words are a searing indictment of the death business in Britain. And Coscelli’s remarks are worth repeating and contemplating: grieving people need to be “protected” from exploitation by those who should be looking after them.
How utterly appalling and shaming for those responsible; it almost feels like a crime. Ian Strang, who founded a funeral comparison website, said the funeral sector had been “allowed to become like the Wild West”.
For the poorest people in Britain, they can now face funeral costs totalling more than they would spend on food, clothes and energy for a whole year. The price of failing to find such an exhorbitant sum is guilt and shame over the final goodbye for a loved one.
Many people in Britain have stoically put up with a lot over the last ten years of austerity, but ‘death profiteering’ is surely not to be tolerated.