The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has officially begun its regulation of the pre-paid funeral plan market today (29 July) and has also confirmed the list of 26 providers that have been authorised.
Together these firms hold approximately 1.6 million plans, which make up 87% of the market.
Regulation of the sector aims to bring “higher standards” and boost consumer protection. New rules, which take effect from today, include:
- A ban on cold calling.
- A ban on commission payments to intermediaries, such as funeral directors.
- A requirement for a funeral plan to deliver a funeral unless the customer dies within two years of taking out the plan, in which case a full refund will be offered.
Customers of authorised providers will now have access to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), so their money is protected if their provider fails. Consumers can also make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), even if the issue they are complaining about happened before July 2022 if the firm was registered with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) at the time the issue occurred.
Some 13 firms that applied before 1 March 2022, but have not been authorised, have until 31 October 2022 to transfer their plans to authorised firms or refund their customers. These plans are not covered by FCA regulation, meaning there is no protection by the FOS and FSCS until they are transferred to authorised providers.
Emily Shepperd, executive director of Authorisations at the FCA, said: “We have worked tirelessly to assess funeral plan providers, under our robust authorisation process. We are pleased that 87% of the market is now under regulation. With our new rules in place, consumers will be better protected, when they need it the most.
“It is unfortunate that a number of firms chose to exit the market, leaving customers, who had sought peace of mind for their loved ones, understandably worried. It is a good outcome for consumers that some providers have stepped in to provide funerals for the customers of these providers at short notice. We also continue to engage with the industry while it works on a longer-term solution.”
This announcement follows the confirmation of the FCA’s plans to introduce a new consumer duty from July 2023. The consumer duty will apply to funeral plan providers and will mean their customers should receive “communications they can understand, products and services that meet their needs and offer fair value, and they get the customer support they need, when they need it”.
The list of authorised providers includes:
Alternative Planning Company Limited (this includes Choice and Choice funeral plans from Funeral Partners)
Avalon (Europe) Limited
Avalon Trustee Company Limited
Celebration Of Life Planning Ltd
Central England Co-Operative Limited (this includes CEC FPL and CEC Funeral Plans)
Co-Op Funeral Plans Limited (this includes Co-op Funeral Plans and Co-op Funeralcare)
Crystal Cremations Ltd
Dignity Funerals Limited
Distinct Funeral Plans Limited
Ecclesiastical Planning Services Limited (this includes Perfect Choice Funeral Plans)
F A Albin & Sons Limited
Family Funerals Trust Limited
Freeman Brothers (this includes Peter Christopher Freeman and Brigid Mary Freeman)
Golden Charter Limited (this includes Golden Charter and localfuneral.co.uk)
Golden Leaves Limited
Haven Personal Funeral Plans Ltd (this includes Haven Personal Funeral Plans and Haven)
Independent Funeral Planning Services Ltd (this includes IFPS and The IFPS)
Low Cost Funeral Limited (this includes Affordable Funerals and Memoriafunerals.co.uk)
M&F Funeral Services Ltd (this includes M&F Funeral Services)
Open Prepaid Funerals Limited (this includes Open Prepaid Funeral Plans and Open Funeral Plans)
Peace Burials Limited (this includes Peace Funerals)
Plan With Grace Limited
Pure Cremation Funeral Planning Ltd
Southern Co-Operative Funerals Limited (this includes Southern Co-op and The Co-operative Funeralcare)
The Independent Family Funeral Directors Ltd (this includes Fosters Family Funeral Directors)
William Alty & Sons Limited