CHOICE has found that funeral directors' professional service fees fluctuate wildly, costing anything from $450 to $2750, and between $129 and $1995 for transport of the body. Funeral directors argue they cannot provide a standard or set price for a funeral because each case is unique.
When the Combined Pensioners Superannuants Association of New South Wales (CPSA), a not-for-profit organisation representing pensioners of all ages, superannuants and low-income retirees, conducted a CHOICE-style shadow shop of funeral directors last year, many funeral operators refused to provide itemised quotes. Where quotes were provided - for a standard basic funeral - costs for cremation ranged between $2500 and $6500. Add-ons such as flowers (which aren’t part of a basic funeral) could cost up to $600.
Typically, funeral costs comprise the cost of the coffin or casket, funeral director’s professional or service fees, disbursements and cremation or burial fees. The costs are usually controlled by the funeral director, who coordinates the event and liaises between the consumer and other suppliers. Kevin Hartley, funeral director of Natural Shroud Burials, claims funeral directors layer up to 400% profit margins on coffins, transport, memorials and flowers.
What can you do?
- Shop around to avoid being overcharged. Before engaging funeral services and calling around for quotes, have a clear idea of exactly the type of funeral you want and your budget. The more specific you are about the items you want included, the less likely you are to be ripped off.
- It is your right to ask for a full breakdown of costs. Ask for all receipts before you pay the final bill to ensure you're not double-charged for services or items. Funeral operators who do not reveal the itemised costs are in breach of the Trade Practices Act as their behaviour can be construed as being misleading and deceptive.
- Find out if the funeral directors will let you bring items such as flowers, memorial books and orders-of-service booklets. It helps you to save costs as some funeral companies can charge you hundreds for these simple items.