As we continue supporting the growing funeral planning industry by providing robust regulation, our thoughts are also turning to how we can grow consumer trust in theproducts they are buying and the providers are offering.
Our latest research shows that a quarter of British consumers trust that all financial productsin the UK are thoroughly vetted by regulators on their behalf. However, as you and I know,this is not the case and in some instances their trust is misplaced. We are urging consumersand funeral directors to make sure they have done their research before purchasing orrecommending a plan to guarantee that they are working with an FPA registered provider.
FPA registration provides additional reassurance to consumers and any funeral directorrecommending them, that they have been subjected to external objective scrutiny andcontinue to work to uphold our rules and code of practice.
And our scrutiny is not easy. Alongside continuous liaison and monitoring of their practices,registered providers have to pass an annual check demonstrating that they are aligned withevery aspect of our rules and code of practice. It involves reviews of the provider’s modelsand financial arrangements, their sales and marketing practices and it involves the providerbeing subject to our complaints arrangements which provide another route for customerswho aren’t satisfied with the service they’ve received. This work gives customers and funeraldirectors a reason to trust FPA registered providers – that doesn’t exist for non-FPAregistered providers.
However, this reassurance means nothing if consumers don’t know about the FPA or whatwe do. Our aim in 2018 is to spread the word amongst customers and funeral directors anddo all we can to make sure they know the difference that FPA registration brings. We alsowant to encourage non-FPA registered firms to seek registration and demonstrate to us thatthey can meet our requirements, giving their customers and their business the benefit ofregistration too.
Funeral planning companies and funeral directors can work together to further buildconsumer trust in the wider funeral industry. By taking a customer-centric approach andtreating customers fairly, this collaboration will serve customer needs and furtherdemonstrate the funeral industry as trustworthy. One way that funeral directors can do this(and also protect their own reputations) is by only working with FPA registered providers –either when recommending or accepting plans. Our view is there is a need for the planningindustry and funeral directors to respect each others part in the market and to work with itin the best interests of customers.
We’ll also be expanding our mystery shopping programme to give us a better view on howcustomers perceive and experience the industry first hand. It strengthens our sight of howour rules and code of practice are alive on a day-to-day basis, reveals how consumers were treated during the sales process and deepens our understanding of the impression they are left with after dealing with providers. Our initial results from 2017 show clear positives in provider behaviour, coupled with areas for improvement. We’ll be working on these with providers and we will continue to roll out the mystery shopping programme to track progress.
When it comes to bringing these plans to fruition to grow consumer trust during 2018 wewill be taking steps to continue our journey to ensure that all funeral plan providers are FPAregistered – something we believe would be in the best interest of the industry andconsumers. A key element of this will be reviewing our rules and code of practice to alignthem with modern sales practices, the digital world and the increased size of the industry.
We’ll also be working with registered providers to reduce complaints and when they do ariseto ensure customers are treated fairly and that a resolution is found quickly. Additionally, wewill be running our own communications programme to convey the importance of using anFPA registered provider and we’re seeking the support of people like you in spreading theword too, whether in person, in your literature or on your website. We’re looking forward toworking hard on all of these over the next year to enable consumer trust in the industry togrow and hope that you’re willing to support us too.