The NAFD advises the public that standards and service must be of equal importance when choosing a funeral director

Britons planning a funeral will easily be able to compare costs as well as quality after funeral directors pledged to publish their prices online.

A major survey of UK funeral directors by the National Association of Funeral Directors revealed that 25% of its 4,000 funeral home members now have pricing information online and a further 19% intend to do so within the next two years, meaning that nearly half of UK funeral directors will have pricing online by 2018.

The aim is that all 4,000+ NAFD funeral home members will have some form of pricing on display and easily accessible by 2020.

The move towards widespread online pricing is a major cultural shift for the sector and is part of its response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s recent report. It ends years of tradition for some funeral directors who, until now, have prioritised sitting down with bereaved families to discuss funeral arrangements but now recognise that, whilst this is still important, any consumer purchase often now starts with research online and they must respond.

However, the Association has sounded a note of caution to consumers that price must only be part of the decision and it is important to choose a funeral director based on their standards and service as well as their costs. The NAFD recommends only choosing a funeral director that is a member of a recognised industry body, which means they will be regularly inspected, and to be wary of rogue funeral firms that are not inspected and may use tactics such as:

  • Advertising artificially low prices to get families through the door
  • Discouraging families from viewing loved ones for distress reasons when it is actually because they do not have the proper mortuary, storage or viewing facilities to do so (‘shop-front’ funeral directors)

Ahead of two reports on the cost of dying by insurance firms Sun Life and Royal London, which are expected to be published within the next few weeks, the NAFD said that its members were making every effort to ensure transparency in pricing to help the public make informed decisions about the funeral director they choose and the type of funeral they purchase.

The NAFD also advises selecting a funeral firm that is a member of a recognised trade association.  NAFD members are required to abide by high standards on pricing as well as on operational issues and are subject to regular quality inspections.

New NAFD Chief Executive Mandie Lavin said: “As with any complex purchase, where emotions are involved, there’s no doubt that the best way to ensure you get the funeral you want, at an appropriate price, is to sit down with a funeral director and discuss your needs. This was borne out by YouGov research earlier this year* which found that members of the public who had arranged a funeral in the past five years chose the funeral director they worked with based primarily on previous experience, recommendation and personal choice.

“When a representative sample of all UK adults* was asked what would be important to them in choosing a funeral director, cost was only the seventh most important consideration.

“However, we recognise that for many people a funeral is a significant expenditure and, although inevitable, is something that very few people plan ahead for. When faced with an unplanned funeral to arrange, increasingly the first place they will turn to is the internet and, particularly in the case of something as distressing as a funeral, they would like to get an idea of potential costs before making arrangements to visit a funeral home.

“For that reason we are working hard with our members to encourage them to add pricing information to their websites. However, websites aren’t the only way of getting costs in advance. All our members are required to have transparent price lists available to post, email or hand out and a small number also publish their prices in branch windows.  These requirements are enshrined in our Code of Practice and Manual of Funeral Directing.

“Even when a family meets with a funeral director we would still advise them to take their time in making a decision. All NAFD members are required to present a range of options and prices and to provide a written estimate to enable families to take the information away and think about whether the funeral director they’ve met with is right for them. Our professional advice to consumers remains to choose a funeral director on standards and service as well as cost.”

The NAFD is also hoping that more visible pricing information will further help to disband many of the myths around the costs of a funeral, how much people need to spend and what it is spent on. To help ensure comparisons are easy the NAFD is creating standardised pricing tables and explanations which all NAFD members can use on their websites or in branch to help consumers compare like with like.