Consumer advocate CHOICE has exposed the funeral industry's harmful pricing tactics which can lead grieving families to pay thousands of dollars extra for basic funeral services. CHOICE is calling for all funeral providers to have information about costs on their website, place of business and available on-request.
"It is far too hard to find out what exactly you're paying for when you hire a funeral home. In our national mystery shop, 14 of 36 funeral providers failed to hand over written cost information within 48 hours of making a request. Ten eventually provided only lump sums with no cost breakdown, though some had to be chased even for these," says CHOICE Investigative Journalist Saimi Jeong. "Others emailed quotes with varying levels of cost itemisation."
CHOICE's investigation, which included the mystery shopping exercise and survey of 548 people who recently organised a funeral, uncovered major issues with pricing practices.
"We found large differences in costs for a direct cremation with no ceremony, with prices ranging from $1,200 to $5,600."
"A White Lady funeral home quoted $5,600 for a direct cremation in our mystery shop. When we looked at the costs, over half of this was made up by an opaque 'professional service fee'."
"We saw unexplained price differences for services like body viewings. On one end of the scale a provider was charging $110 for people to view their loved ones, while another charged an outrageous $1,600," says Ms Jeong.
"Many funeral homes are clearly charging inflated prices and profiting off a lack of price transparency. When you're grieving, the last thing you need is the added stress of paying for expensive extras."
The findings come as NSW Fair Trading is considering new rules to force funeral providers to list costs at their place of business and website.
"CHOICE supports NSW Fair Trading's efforts to help consumers understand prices and compare options, and ask that they go a step further by ensuring funeral providers clearly indicate what services are required under law and what services are added extras.
"Every state and territory should be following the lead of NSW to stop harmful pricing practices that take advantage of people in one of the most difficult points in their life."
Media contact: 0430 172 669, firstname.lastname@example.org
CHOICE’s article is available at How much do funerals cost?
CHOICE's submission to Fair Trading is available at Choice Policy Submissions