To mark the one year anniversary of the Fair Funerals pledge we conducted a thorough review to assess its impact and explore how it could be developed and improved.
The pledge was also extended and revamped at this juncture, with the additional requirement for funeral directors to display prices on their websites.
What is the pledge?
Many people find it difficult to find a funeral within their means. This is made harder still by the number of funeral directors who don’t always make their prices open and visible. So we launched the Fair Funerals pledge, asking funeral directors to make a voluntary commitment to:
What have funeral directors done differently since signing?
We wanted to know how signing the pledge had changed the business practices of signatories. We sent an email to all signatories asking them what changes they’d made since signing. Of the responses we received:
- 20% told us they hadn’t done anything differently since signing because they were already adhering to the pledge.
- 75% told us they had changed their practices in connection to signing the pledge.
Here are some of the responses we received:
Russell Funeral Directors
Since signing the pledge I’ve put my prices on the webpage so that people can see them.
We prominently display Fair Funerals information in our windows. We have spoken about Fair Funerals at local associations and volunteer group meetings and worked with CAB and Age UK to promote Fair Funerals.
We have put together an affordable funerals package which offers a great level of service and quality for a very affordable price.
We have identified some excellent examples illustrating the impact of the pledge on industry practices. Several funeral directors said they had already put prices on their websites, despite the pledge not specifically asking them to do this.
Are funeral directors sticking to the pledge?
We wanted to check whether signatories were abiding by the pledge. Since launching the pledge, we have been careful to communicate its voluntary nature and that we are not in a position to guarantee that pledge signatories are adhering to its requirements. However, the credibility of the pledge is predicated on our ability to state with confidence that funeral directors take their commitment seriously.
What we found
We randomly selected 10% of pledge signatories and conducted mystery shopping over the phone.
The majority of funeral directors (68%) offered their most affordable package without being prompted. The same number were willing to break down costs. A quarter failed to do so.
There is still work to be done by funeral directors to make their most affordable options visible and help people on low incomes find funerals within their budget.
Next steps taken by Fair Funerals
- We see the necessity of making funeral directors aware that they did not meet the requirements of the pledge. We will always contact funeral directors who did not comply, reminding them of their pledge commitment and making them aware that continued non-compliance would lead to their removal from the pledge.
- We see the benefit of mystery shopping and anonymous scrutiny, so we will conduct annual mystery shopping to check knowledge of and adherence to the pledge.
How did signatories hear about the pledge?
When companies signed the pledge we asked them how they had heard about it.
58% of funeral directors came to the pledge through the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). SAIF demonstrated a real commitment to encouraging sign up among their members, and this was very effective. Since launching the pledge, SAIF and many of the independent companies they represent have taken progressive action to increase price transparency and promote practices which meet the needs of bereaved people on low incomes.
The role of the media
A significant number of signatories (18%) heard about the pledge through the media. The pledge has received a high level of media coverage since it launched and this has helped to raise awareness of and support for the pledge within the funeral industry. Many funeral directors have themselves made excellent use of local media to promote themselves as signatories of the pledge.
The ‘ripple’ effect
We found that when one funeral director signed up in a geographical area, very often others would follow suit. Our interactive map of signatories has helped to encourage this ripple effect among funeral directors. Funeral directors are often aware of what their local competitors are doing. This represents an opportunity for best practice on transparency and affordability to replicate itself geographically.
- We will explore ways to continue to work with SAIF to encourage greater sign up among the independent funeral directors.
- We will explore ways to further engage the other industry trade body, the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), to promote the pledge to their membership.
The pledge now and in the future
We wanted to publish the findings of our research to demonstrate what the pledge has achieved and what work is yet to be done.
There is more to do, and we have ambitions to grow the membership of the pledge even further. Our aim is to have a majority of funeral directors in the UK have signed up to this important set of commitments.
We see this as our contribution to a significant transformation in price transparency within the funeral industry.
To that end, we revamped the pledge in July 2016. The pledge now asks funeral directors:
- in initial conversations - within their price lists - on their website.
- in initial conversations
- within their price lists
- on their website.
This enhanced pledge was signed by Coop Funeralcare, significantly increasing the number of signatories to 1,620, representing a third of the UK industry.