If there's one time in your life when you're not in the mood to shop around for the best deal, it's when a loved one dies and you have to arrange a funeral. The funeral industry seems to know this, and for a long time has taken advantage.
How? By offering funeral packages at a set price – often a high one – without breaking down all the costs properly, making it hard for people to decide whether they need or even want everything they're paying for.
The coffin, the cremation (if there is one), transporting and storing the body, viewing the body, the service itself – all these things are wrapped into a package whose prices are all over the shop.
When we mystery-shopped the industry in 2019, funeral businesses either wouldn't give us an itemised list of expenses or were evasive on the question of whether we could arrange some items ourselves at a lower cost.
When we did get quotes, it was only after repeated requests in some cases. And the quotes for the cheapest option – cremation without a funeral – ranged wildly from $2400 to $5600, all for the same set of goods and services.
Quotes for the cheapest option – cremation without a funeral – ranged wildly from $2400 to $5600
This profit-maximising behaviour shouldn't come as a surprise: the biggest player in Australia, InvoCare (owner of White Lady Funerals, Simplicity Funerals, Guardian Funerals and other chains) owns a quarter of the Australian funeral-home market. It's also listed on the share market, where the pursuit of profit is the name of the game.
Our earlier investigation caught the attention of NSW Fair Trading, which introduced legislation requiring operators to display transparent funeral pricing. But unfortunately it only applies in NSW.
So, if you're looking for a basic cremation without a funeral from White Lady in Bulli you can easily find the itemised price list online – it starts at $2893.
You'll have to contact the company and experience the full sales pitch and upsell
But if you're in Glenside in South Australia, Cairns in Queensland or Dandenong in Victoria, you can't get a price online, which means you'll have to contact the company and experience the full sales pitch and upsell in order to start comparing your options.
We're asking why this big funeral company doesn't extend transparent pricing across its entire market. Is it because it's bad for business?
CHOICE campaigner Amy Pereira is on the case. "InvoCare is profiting from keeping grieving families in the dark," she says.
"NSW made funeral companies disclose their prices so families wouldn't be taken advantage of. Companies like InvoCare have done the bare minimum, leaving grieving families in the rest of Australia behind. InvoCare needs to be upfront with all Australians and provide itemised costs for services online," says Pereira.