Whistleblowers are encouraged to contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about Australian funeral industry concerns, including hidden fees, add-on services, misrepresentations and unfair contract terms.
ACCC chair Rod Sims said this week that the funeral industry is one of the ACCC’s key regulatory and compliance focus industries in 2020. He said:
Competition and consumer issues in the funeral services sector have long provoked complaints from the public, governments and generated stories in the media. Not least because many consumers engage with the funeral sector at a time when they are grieving, vulnerable and thereby at a disadvantage.
This is a concentrated sector with some players having significant market power. As some funeral service providers also have a large share of different services across the funeral home, cemetery and crematoria markets, there is an opportunity for these providers to bundle services and block new entrants to the market. There have been reports from people within the sector of anti-competitive conduct such as misuse of market power and exclusive dealing. We strongly encourage whistleblowers to come forward.
Funerals are expensive. Many consumers have limited or no experience with the sector until they need to arrange one. There is growing criticism about the lack of price transparency for funeral services and the difficulties consumers face in making an informed decision.
There are also complaints from consumers about misleading and deceptive practices in the sector. These include hidden fees, add-on services not included and misrepresentations about what will be covered. Additionally there are allegations of unfair contract terms within funeral service and pre-paid funeral contracts.
Most concerning are allegations of unconscionable conduct. There are allegations that some funeral operators inflate the price of services and take advantage of consumers at a vulnerable time. Complex and opaque pricing, product bundling and other strategies adopted by some funeral operators are also issues we will be examining more closely.
By selecting this as a priority, we aim to improve our understanding of the market and undertake targeted action.