SAIF’s initial view on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)’s Final Report

18/12/2020   //   No Comments

To read the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)’s Final Report, at 494 pages plus 25 appendix documents, is a big ask for even the most passionate funeral professional. To release such an extensive volume at the height of the second wave of a deadly pandemic when many small funeral firms are flat out caring for bereaved families beggars belief. 

However, it is imperative that SAIF members do make time to read the report. Because whilst regulation will shape your work for years to come, we must work to shape any regulation – and we can only do that if we all understand what is being proposed. Here’s what we know so far… 

Whilst members in Scotland will be subject to the emerging registration and licensing regime resulting out of the Burial and Cremation Act (Scotland) 2016, the CMA is recommending that similar regimes be introduced for funeral directors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with an independent statutory inspectorate.   

There will also be statutory online and standardised price information across all UK funeral directors mandated by the CMA, and a ban on gifts to care homes, hospices or similar service providers. And if your business has five or more branches you will be required to supply revenue and funerals information to the CMA twice a year, no matter where you are in the UK. SAIF members should know that we argued strongly for a 50-employee threshold for providing financial information rather than five branches. It’s no overstatement to say we’re bitterly disappointed.

Rest assured the SAIF CMA Regulatory Taskgroup is currently poring over the report and will comment more fully in due course. 

However, our initial position is that SAIF has serious concerns about these proposals and the financial impact they might have on members. It seems that the recommendations will be more easily accommodated by large chains and conglomerates than local independent family-run businesses, which conduct 70 per cent of funerals in the UK. SAIF has consistently highlighted these fears to the CMA from the outset.

We also continue to have concerns that the Final Report relies on funeral cost data from SunLife, which SAIF successfully demonstrated to the Advertising Standards Authority was being presented in a way that made the average cost of funerals look much higher than the price most people pay across the UK. 

In the coming months and years, we will be fighting hard for a fair deal for small firms – to ensure that the UK funeral landscape does not lose the diversity and personal care that independents deliver in communities everywhere. We will be engaging lawmakers and other influencers to protect your future. 

We will also drive home the message that funeral directors have been an essential part of the nation’s emergency response to the pandemic. Without your hard work, the death management process would have ground to a halt, resulting in immense suffering to families already barred from grieving properly under strict coronavirus measures.

We want regulation. But any regulatory regime that drives historic businesses to the wall would be a disaster for local economies and worse still, a tragedy for bereaved people who find immense comfort in the care they receive from their local independent funeral directors. 

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