Need to know
- Before November 2020, InvoCare made itemised prices available for its funeral homes in NSW and the ACT only, in line with NSW laws
- Potential customers can now access itemised price lists from the websites of all InvoCare’s funeral brands – but they’re not always easy to find
- Thousands of people have joined us in asking their local consumer affairs ministers to make upfront funeral prices mandatory, and WA is considering whether it could apply NSW laws
Our investigation of the funeral industry last year showed how outsourcing the organising of a funeral to businesses has left Australians paying for expensive funerals that tend to reflect what's easy and profitable for funeral homes.
We also found it was often hard to get written quotes from funeral homes, and the quotes we did get tended to have poor cost breakdowns – including quotes from Australia's largest funeral provider, InvoCare, which owns a quarter of the market.
But InvoCare made a change recently. Soon after we gave the company a Shonky Award for not being upfront with its pricing, it put itemised prices on its websites for all its brands – in line with the NSW laws we helped change last year.
Changed laws in NSW
These laws now require funeral homes to display itemised prices instore and, importantly, online, which can help people compare costs without having to expose themselves to a sales pitch from a funeral home.
The laws only apply in NSW, and until November, InvoCare only made itemised prices available for its funeral homes in NSW and the ACT.
These laws require funeral homes to display itemised prices instore and, importantly, online
After their national rollout, we reviewed InvoCare's websites for national brands Simplicity Funerals and White Lady Funerals, and we did a spot check of the smaller brands Blackwell Funerals in South Australia, Australian Heritage Funerals in Queensland and Archer & Sons in Western Australia.
We found links to itemised price lists by scrolling down the homepages of all of these websites.
Funeral prices: not on the menu?
But some are easier to find than others: Simplicity, White Lady and Blackwell have large icons to click to view these prices, while Archer & Sons and Australian Heritage have hyperlinks that get somewhat lost in the text at the bottom of the page.
And while the main menus at the top of all of these sites – which are accessible from any of their webpages, not just the homepage – have tabs for information on prepaid funerals, advice for arranging a funeral and 'about us' pages, itemised costs aren't among them.
People who arrive at these sites through any page other than the homepage are much less likely to find the itemised prices
People who arrive at these sites through any page other than the homepage – for instance, by searching for one of Simplicity or White Lady's many areas of business and finding the page for that location specifically – are much less likely to find the itemised prices.
We asked InvoCare if they would be including itemised price lists in the menus at the top of their websites anytime soon, to ensure they can be accessed from any page.
The company's public relations manager, Jacinta Gale, says Google "will tag our pricing pages and we expect consumers are likely to land often, directly on the pricing pages". She also says InvoCare "will continue to enhance how pricing is featured on our websites and across our other marketing channels".
After we awarded InvoCare a Shonky, we called on the public to email their local consumer affairs ministers asking them to make upfront funeral prices mandatory. More than 5460 people across Australia did so.
John Quigley, Western Australia's Attorney General and Minister for Commerce, responded just two days after the Shonkys.
Minister Quigley wrote to us saying he has asked the consumer protection division of the Western Australia Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety if the NSW laws on funeral pricing information could apply in WA.
"The funeral information provisions in NSW appear to be appropriate and reasonable, ensuring greater transparency for bereaved consumers who have to make a decision during a difficult time," he says.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.