New research has found that British people are being overcharged for funerals by almost £600m every year, paying on average 35 percent more than they need to.
Funeral comparison site Beyond commissioned the research which found the average price paid for a funeral is now £3,757, meaning with more than 600,000 deaths in the UK last year, the national overspend comes to £590.8m.
The UK funeral industry is currently worth more than £2bn every year, however, rising costs have prompted the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate the sector. Beyond’s research suggested the trade is overcharging by 35 percent.
Beyond said this was contributing to a “growing funeral poverty problem”. The average funeral debt taken on has reached a record high of £1,744 and 12 percent of the country struggles to cover funeral costs, taking the total funeral debt in the UK to £131m.
Lower cost options such as direct cremation have also grown in popularity in recent years, prompted by high prices. In June, the CMA began its consultation amid concerns over the spiralling costs in the funeral sector and is expected to deliver a preliminary report before the end of the year.
James Dunn, co-founder of Beyond, said: “A lack of regulation and transparency across the funeral market has allowed costs to reach levels where consumers are being unfairly exploited and, in many cases, are unable to pay without incurring significant debt.
“There are good deals to be found but consumers need to be encouraged to shop around because they struggle to find the time to do so when they’ve just lost a loved one. This is how the industry has been able to overcharge the bereaved by £600m every year.
He added: “One of the problems with the funeral industry is that it is dominated by a handful of chains. Their prices tend to be far higher than independent providers and all this means is that the rich keep getting richer – and it’s consumers who feel the pinch.
“With issues like funeral poverty no longer able to be ignored, it is reassuring to see the CMA considering intervening. Now that we know that the scale of the problem is as much as £600m a year, it will be interesting to see what steps they may recommend in the near future to prevent this worsening.”