A CHOICE investigation has found funeral giant InvoCare, responsible for brands including White Lady Funerals and Simplicity Funerals, is taking advantage of grieving, vulnerable families with hidden fees and misleading invoices.
Following a tip-off from an industry insider, CHOICE conducted an investigation into the billing practices of the funeral giant.
The investigation analysed funeral bills from the CHOICE community and found InvoCare has been applying an unnecessary late fee of $352 ($320+GST) by default to all funeral bills. The invoices clearly show InvoCare funeral homes incorporating the late fee into the total figure of all invoices. If families pay before or on the due date, the fee is supposed to be deducted.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the industry insider told CHOICE "it is a straight out revenue grab from unsuspecting, vulnerable customers...it is a complete gouge of customers."
To make things even more misleading, this late payment fee appears on the bill as an "administration fee". CHOICE claims that not only is the fee presented in a misleading and unethical way, it harms families who can least afford it.
"This practice is absolutely disgraceful," says CHOICE Director of Campaigns Erin Turner. "Many Australians would see the administration fee and not realise that it's actually a late payment fee, particularly when they have just lost a loved one. InvoCare is profiteering from grieving families with this practice. We know from other markets that excessive late fees most impact people on low incomes."
"These fees are incredibly misleading and are akin to fees for no service and pay-on-time discounts. InvoCare must scrap this disgraceful practice and be fair to grieving families. CHOICE has made a complaint to the ACCC, but InvoCare shouldn't wait, they have an ethical duty to stop this disgraceful practice now."
CHOICE investigative journalist Saimi Jeong says families may be unaware they've been ripped off.
"During this investigation we spoke to families who were completely unaware of the nature of this fee," says Jeong.
"Invocare is hiding its late payment fee, making it hard for grieving families to determine if they're paying a fair price. If you pay within three weeks, the onus is on you or your funeral director to subtract the administration fee from the total – and to pick up on an overpayment if it happens."
"With the scale of InvoCare's business and the reach of its brands across the country, thousands of families could be impacted. InvoCare operates more than 40 different brands across the country. This investigation wouldn't have been possible without the support of community members who shared their information with CHOICE. The more we dig into the funeral industry, the more we discover manipulative practices. The CHOICE community is helping to call this out and change it. We encourage anyone who has accessed services from brands like White Lady Funerals and Simplicity Funerals to check back over their bills."
CHOICE's multi-part investigation has uncovered confusing legal framework around DIY funerals, opaque pricing practices across the industry and the risks of pre-paid funeral products.
CHOICE's investigative journalism is non-profit, and supported by our members. If you report on this story, we'd love a link back to the original report at CHOICE.com.au/FuneralFee
Invoices obtained by CHOICE, full ACCC complaint, photos, video and audio available via Dropbox: https://showcase.dropbox.com/doc/Funeral-Investigations--Ao8CFneSCJQMhJq~YGUkBRBZAQ-qgoq7D2R4QLlSBd4yVF6P
Media contact: 0430 172 669, firstname.lastname@example.org
CHOICE consumer warning:
CHOICE is encouraging families who have accessed services from InvoCare to check their bills. Invocare is better known under the national brands White Lady Funerals and Simplicity Funerals, but also operates under a range of smaller brand names in each state and territory.
Australians who have accessed services from the following brands should check their bills for overpayment and unfair fees.
- White Lady Funerals
- Simplicity Funerals
- Value Cremations
New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory
- Allan Drew Funerals
- Ann Wilson Funerals
- Boland Funerals a Guardian Funeral Provider
- David Lloyd a Guardian Funeral Provider
- Grafton & District Funerals
- Guardian Funerals
- Hansen & Cole a Guardian Funeral Provider
- Hastings District Funeral & Cremation Service
- Lester & Son Funeral Directors
- Liberty Funerals
- Southern Highlands Funerals
- Tobin Brothers a Guardian Funeral Provider
- Universal Chung Wah Funeral Directors
- WN Bull Funerals
- Burkin Svendsens Funerals
- City Funerals
- Drysdale Funerals
- Gatton Laidley Lowood Funeral Services
- George Hartnett Metropolitan Funerals
- Hiram Philp Funerals
- Mackay Funerals
- Somerville Funerals
- Blackwell Funerals
- English Rose Funerals
- J.A. Dunn Funeral Directors
- Turnbull Funerals
- Charles Crawford & Sons
- Le Pine Funerals
- Lester & Son Funeral Directors
- Southern Cross Funerals
- Tuckers Funeral & Bereavement Service
- The W.D. Rose Funerals group of funeral homes includes Joseph Allison Funerals, Giannarelli Funerals and Werribee Funerals.
- Archer & Sons Funeral Homes
- Christian Funerals
- Green Endings by Oakwood Funerals
- Mareena Purslowe Funerals
- Oakwood Funerals
- Purslowe & Chipper Funerals