Need to know
- Funeral homes will need to display price lists in-store and on their website
- They must also display the cost of their least expensive package
- Funeral directors will have to provide a cost-itemised quote to a customer before entering an agreement to carry out their funeral service
Over the decades, governments and regulators have shone a spotlight on the funeral industry, which has been accused of providing overpriced, unnecessary products; quoting a wide range of prices for the same service; and causing confusion for consumers. So far, not much has changed.
That's why the NSW government's announcement of new rules for the funeral industry is a welcome one. The regulations aim to make it easier for people to access price information when planning a funeral.
The announcement follows a recent CHOICE investigation that found many funeral homes are charging inflated prices and profiting from a lack of price transparency.
"Families are being taken advantage of when they're at their most vulnerable. Our investigation found an industry where manipulation, overcharging and misinformation were the norm," says CHOICE investigative journalist Saimi Jeong.
Under the previous Fair Trading Regulation, funeral homes were only required to disclose a price list for a basic funeral service – and only if they offered one.
Now, all funeral providers in NSW must provide the price of each of their goods and services. Funeral homes must also display the cost of their least expensive package.
Funeral directors will also have to give a cost-itemised quote, in writing, to a consumer before entering an agreement to carry out their funeral services.
They'll also need to display their price lists at each place of business and prominently on their websites, if they have one.
The industry has been given a deadline of 1 February 2020 to adopt the new requirements.
Enforcement the key
The changes are a good start, but the funeral industry remains largely unregulated in Australia.
"It's important that governments and regulators, like the NSW government in this case, act on manipulative markets. The funeral industry must be held to account across the country," Jeong says.
And despite existing regulations in NSW and Victoria that require funeral homes to disclose and itemise their costs, our investigation found many businesses flouting the law. Monitoring and enforcement, evidently, will be the key to real change.
When coping with grief and arranging a funeral, we're limited in our ability to shop aroundCHOICE investigative journalist Saimi Jeong
"Arranging a funeral can be an emotional and time-sensitive process. When coping with grief and arranging a funeral, we're almost always reliant on funeral suppliers and are limited in our ability to shop around," says Jeong.
"The new rules are a step in the right direction and will make it easier for people to find options that are fair, affordable and appropriate. It's important that the industry is monitored and these new rules are enforced effectively."