The beginning of the end for rogue funeral planners
Pre-paid funeral plans are designed to allow anyone eligible to make provisions for their own or someone else's funeral. However, they’ve been heavily scrutinised due to their lack of regulation - but that is all about to change.
Caught out by high fees
Last year, we wrote a blog in support of calls for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to step in and introduce regulation to the funeral plan market, following concerns into the risk it presents to policyholders.
For example, pre-paid funeral plan providers hugely vary as to what they will cover - and some contain nasty surprises. Back in 2017, the Guardian reported many people who are unaware of the commission and administration fees charged by some providers. One funeral director told the national newspaper she was astonished when a client bought a £3,420 plan, but only £2,535 went towards the funeral, due to an admin cost of nearly £1,000.
What’s more, there was very little protection offered to customers who had paid into a funeral plan, only for the company to go bust and never recover the money. But it didn’t stop there, as evidence in recent years has been uncovered as to how some providers were aggressively selling funeral plans to the over 50s, who were often signing up without fully understanding what they were signing up to.
Some funeral plan providers seeking to do the right thing could have registered with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), but this was not a compulsory requirement, leaving consumers with little choice, but to take the risk.
A change in the law
The good news is that following many years of campaigning, from July 2022, the pre-paid funeral plan market will become FCA-regulated. As such, new rules will come into force to protect customers and prevent any rogue companies from taking advantage.
The new rules include:
- banning cold calling and setting new standards on advertising to ensure plans are sold fairly
- banning commission payments to intermediaries, such as funeral directors, to ensure products represent fair value
- carrying out full checks on the fitness to operate of those selling funeral plans, in order to improve governance standards and oversight
- guaranteeing that funeral plans will always deliver a funeral unless the customer dies within 2 years of taking out the plan, in which case a full refund will be offered
- guaranteeing that customers will receive a full refund if they cancel a plan within 30 days of purchase, or pay only a reasonable charge later on
We very much welcome these changes and we’re thrilled there has been a good outcome.
We will be keeping a close eye on the law in this area, but if you would like any legal advice relating to a pre-paid funeral plan, or you would like to discuss wills, estate planning or lasting powers of attorney, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.