Chain Reaction: Big Funeral Firms Charging Bereaved 65% Premium 0

  • Booking with a funeral director from a major chain costs almost £1,500 more than choosing an independent firm
  • ‘Chain premium’ of 65% has helped drive average funeral prices up by more than £1,000 since 2016
  • Independent funeral directors have actually DROPPED their fees in last two years

The chains who dominate the UK funeral market are charging an eye-watering 65% more than independent providers on average, exclusive research by funeral comparison website Beyond reveals today.

The leading chains, who make up one-third of the market, now charge on average £3,771 for their funeral director services[1], the study shows. The same services from an independent funeral director cost on average just £2,287, meaning that there is now a ‘chain premium’ of a staggering £1,484 (65%) on average.

Table: 2018 UK average funeral director costs, Independent vs Chain

Funeral Director Independent Chain % difference
Cost £2,287 £3,771 65%

The research found that independent funeral directors have actually dropped their fees by 1% since 2016[2]. Despite this, overall funeral costs have soared by a third[3] in the same period.

The overall average funeral price in the UK is now £4,245[3], once the cost of cremation or burial has been added to the funeral directors’ fees. When Beyond conducted similar research in 2016, this was only £3,190 – meaning the average funeral price has risen by 33% in just two years.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced in May that it was looking into price transparency in the UK funeral market, amid growing concerns that consumers are being exploited, while a debate on Funeral Poverty is set to take place in the House of Commons tomorrow afternoon (September 11), led by Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck MP.

James Dunn, co-founder of Beyond, comments:

“The most disappointing thing about the ‘chain premium’ is how unsurprising it is. Chains have a stranglehold in many areas across the country and it is not always apparent which funeral directors are independents.

“This reduces transparency and makes it even harder for consumers to compare costs.

“Most people would like to know if they are using an independent, local firm and, at around £1,500 cheaper on average, could also save a lot of money. It’s well worth asking funeral directors if they are part of a large chain and it’s crucial consumers shop around.”

 

Notes

[1] Beyond research from 1,039 independent funeral directors and 801 branches of chain funeral directors, which have been weighted in the average calculations to reflect their overall market share.

Average funeral services calculated as: funeral director fees, basic wood veneer coffin, urn, flowers, celebrant/minister, hearse and one limousine

[2] Table: Independent Funeral Director changing costs

2016 2018 % difference
Independent FD cost £2,304 £2,287 -1%


[3] Table: Rising costs of UK funerals since 2016 (combined chain & independent)

2016 2018 % difference
Funeral Director + Cremation £2,937 £3,946 34%
Funeral Director + Burial £3,740 £4,893 31%
Average* £3,190 £4,245 33%

* Average overall funeral prices are weighted 70% for cremation, 30% for burial; cremations account for at least 70% of all funerals in the UK.

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Left in its Wake: Cost of Dying Rising Twice as Fast as Cost of Living 0

  • Burial costs up 20% nationwide in just three years
  • Cremation fees see 17.6% increase over same period
  • Prices of other goods have only risen 7.67% in that time

The spiralling cost of dying is rising twice as fast as the cost of living, funeral services comparison site Beyond reveals today, as funeral prices surge ahead of inflation.

While the cost of living has increased by a cumulative 7.67% since 2015, the average price of burials has risen by 19.9% – almost three times as much. The national average price of a burial plot is now an eye-watering £1,838.

Cost of dying soared in the last years

It is a similar story in the cremation market, where fees are up by 17.6% over the past three years. With cremations now accounting for close to 80% of all funerals in the UK, and with close to half a million deaths each year, this is big business. The average price for a cremation is now £784, with some crematoriums charging as much as £1,070.

How average funeral prices have continued to rise:

2015 2016 2017 2018 Total % increase
Crematoriums £667 £713 £751 £784 17.54%
Cemeteries £1,533 £1,631 £1,740 £1,838 19.90%

 

It has never been more expensive to die, with funerals commonly now reaching £5,000 or more once all additional costs such as cars, coffins and admin fees are included. Beyond’s research raises concerns that a lack of competition is driving prices higher.

Private funeral services firm Dignity run 19 of the 20 most expensive crematoriums in the country, with a direct correlation between an absence of competition and the ability to impose higher prices on grieving relatives with no other options.

Unsurprisingly, London is home to the UK’s most expensive cemeteries with land prices in the capital at a premium for both property and burials. However, it is Wales and the South West that have seen the sharpest hikes in the last 12 months, each with 12% increases for average burial prices in just a year.

James Dunn, co-founder of Beyond, comments:

“The numbers of people dying each year is fairly predictable to it’s staggering to see the cost of dying race ahead of the cost of living by such a margin.

“Funeral prices in this country are not something that we particularly enjoy talking about and that means awareness of the relative value presented by providers is low.

“Providers are going unchallenged and consumers are not being well-served by the market, which lacks a great deal of competition. The Government has to get a grip on this escalating costs.”

Coffin Up: Crematoriums Forcing 37% Price Hikes on Bereaved in Monopoly Shake Down 0

  • Lack of competition in certain areas allows providers to charge grieving families far more than national average
  • Crematoriums charge more the further they are from their nearest rival on average
  • Big savings on offer in densely populated areas but those in remote regions most vulnerable to higher prices

Grieving relatives are being burned by cremation costs that are 36.5% above the national average in areas where there is no competition, funeral services comparison site Beyond reveals today.

The average national cremation price has now risen to £784 but some crematoriums are charging up to £300 more than that.

The UK’s ten most expensive are all charging £1,070 and Beyond says it is no coincidence that they are on average 14.4 miles from their nearest rival, creating a monopoly as families balk at travelling long distances to lay their loved ones to rest.

The research comes after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last week announced a review into the spiralling costs of funerals.

A clear nationwide trend reveals how proximity of competition keeps prices lower while distance increases the average cremation costs considerably.

Beyond’s study shows the tipping point for the crematorium monopoly effect is 7.5 miles. If a crematorium is further than 7.5 miles away from its nearest competitor, the average price it charges rises significantly.

The average price at a crematorium less than 7.5 miles from its nearest competitor is £757 which rises to £810 for those further than 7.5 miles away and £830 for those beyond 15 miles.

Cremations now account for close to 80% of all funerals, making it big business for the nation’s crematoriums. The CMA will seek to ensure that consumers are not being exploited, particularly at such a vulnerable and emotional time.

Of the 20 priciest crematoriums in the country, all but one (Parkgrove) are owned by private funeral services firm Dignity, while only one (Beckenham) sits within the 7.5 mile radius, showing how distance from competition can add a significant premium to cremation prices.

 

UK’s most expensive crematoriums

Crematorium Distance to nearest crematorium (miles) Price of cremation
Moray 47 £1,070
Surrey & Sussex (Crawley) 18 £1,070
Dundee 16 £1,070
Parkgrove (Friockheim) 16 £1,070
The Counties (Northampton) 10.5 £1,070
Heart of England (Nuneaton) 9.5 £1,070
Chichester 9 £1,070
Oxford 8 £1,070
Randalls Park (Leatherhead) 7.5 £1,070
Beckenham 2.5 £1,070
Earlham 18 £1,060
Norwich 13 £1,060
Lancaster & Morecambe 18.5 £1,055
Loughborough 10 £1,035
Basingstoke 12 £1,025
Glynn Valley 23.5 £999
Hawkinge 8.5 £999
Charnock Richard (Chorley) 8 £999
Exeter & Devon 4.5 £999
East Lancashire (Bury) 3.5 £999

London, the most densely populated part of the country, reinforces the trend, with a greater amount of competition forcing cremation prices down in the capital. South West Middlesex Crematorium in Feltham, for example, has the lowest charges of anywhere in the UK at £515, and is within five miles of its nearest competitor.

Beyond says that there are exceptions to the trend but these only demonstrate that some prices are being artificially inflated, because not all crematoriums feel the need to take advantage of an effective monopoly by increasing prices well above the national average.

Aberdeen’s crematorium, for instance, is more than 42 miles from a rival – the fourth biggest distance in the country – yet it only charges £693 per cremation, 12% below the national average of £784.

The crematorium monopoly is not unique to the private sector. Inverness is the most remote crematorium in the country, 51 miles away from any other, and charges £904 – the fifth most of any public provider.

The average price of the top five public crematoriums is £927 while the average distance from a competitor is 24 miles – showing that councils are not immune from cashing in on their advantage either.

 

UK’s most expensive public crematoriums

Crematorium Distance to nearest crematorium (miles) Price of cremation
Thorncliffe (Barrow-in-Furness) 20 £959
Crownhill (Milton Keynes) 13 £931
Distington Hall (Workington) 29 £924
Haycombe (Bath) 8 £915
Inverness 51 £904

 

James Dunn, co-founder of Beyond, comments:

“For far too long, not enough has been done about spiralling cremation costs. Mourners are being exploited and it’s fantastic news that the CMA has launched its probe into this sector.

“In everyday life it can pay to shop around for a better deal. In death, however, it’s not always possible to go elsewhere and consumers need to be protected when providers can essentially charge what they like.

“Prices should not be allowed to spiral out of control in areas where there is no competition. No provider should be able to cash in on grief in this way.”