June 1, 2019 / 9:40 PM / 5 months ago

UK plans crackdown on high-pressure tactics in funeral sales

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is to crack down on high-pressure and misleading tactics in the sale of funeral plans, City minister John Glen said on Saturday.

New plans to regulate the pre-paid funeral sector for the first time will ensure the market is competitive and that consumers, who are often old and vulnerable, understand what they are buying, he added.

“Planning for your funeral can be a difficult experience, but one that many of us will need to go through at some point in our lives,” Glen said in a statement.

The sector will now be overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the regulator for 58,000 financial services firms and markets in Britain.

Under the new plans, anyone found breaching the regulations can have their authorisation revoked, face fines and even criminal charges, Glen said.

Demand for funeral plans has grown by nearly 200% between 2006 and 2018, according to Treasury figures. Last year, 177,000 plans were sold and cost on average between 2,500 and 5,000 pounds.

The legislation governing their oversight has not changed since 2001.

Shares in Dignity Plc, Britain’s second-largest undertaker, which operates more than 700 funeral locations across the UK, fell sharply in November when the government first announced a formal investigation.

Both Dignity and Co-op Funeralcare - part of mutually owned Co-Operative Group - which together dominate the market in Britain - have recently cut prices.

Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Toby Chopra

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