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Funeral groups escape price controls as coronavirus forces CMA to rein back

Shares in crematoria owner Dignity jumped 11% as the provisional report was released

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Britain’s funeral industry has avoided a full-scale competition clampdown due to the surge in the number of deaths from coronavirus.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said while it is clear the funerals sector is not working well and needs reform, the pandemic has created insurmountable obstacles to change.

In a provisional report, the CMA said that some of the remedies it was considering, such as price controls, could not safely be introduced during a national emergency.

Instead, it is proposing all funeral directors and crematoria provide customers with clear information on the prices and packages on offer.

“This will go a long way to ensuring people have easily accessible information on services and costs to help them decide which type of funeral arrangement they require.”

The CMA also said it monitor the funerals sector with an obligation on funeral directors and crematoria to provide it with key financial data every quarter.

Other proposals include a provisional recommendation that the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland establish an inspection and registration regime to monitor the quality of funeral director services as exists already in Scotland.

The industry is not completely off the hook, however, as the CMA has recommended a series of measures for when conditions return to some kind of normality.

Martin Coleman, CMA Panel Inquiry Chair, said: “The later stages of the investigation have been conducted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a tragic increase in death rates and has materially changed how funerals are carried out.

“This has had a big impact on how far we can immediately address some of the issues we have identified.

“Our proposals will hold open the door to price controls when circumstances created by the pandemic change sufficiently to permit these to be considered.”

Shares in Dignity PLC (LON:DTY) , one of the UK’s biggest crematoria owners, rose 11% to 435p on the publication of the report.

Crematoria were highlighted in the CMA’s provisional report and Clive Whiley, executive Chairman said in response:

"Dignity has engaged openly and collaboratively with the Competition and Markets Authority throughout the funerals market investigation.

“We will take the time to fully assess the CMA's Provisional Decision Report and its recommendations and will continue to constructively engage directly with the CMA through the statutory process."

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