The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has released an Issues Paper and launched a review into the costs, pricing and competition in the NSW funeral industry.
Tribunal member Deborah Cope said organising and paying for a funeral was unlike most consumer decisions as it involved an infrequent purchase made at an emotional time and under a time constraint.
“We have already heard concerns that consumers may be ‘upsold’ into more expensive funeral packages when a standard option would have met their needs,” Ms Cope said.
“There is also anecdotal evidence that consumers don’t find out about alternatives to a ‘traditional’ funeral that would enable them to reduce costs until it is too late,” she said.
“There are wide variations in price to navigate with funerals ranging from around $3,000 to $9,000 and more in NSW for a basic package (not including burial).”
Ms Cope said the IPART review followed investigations into the funeral industry by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Four Corners program and Choice.
She said the review built on work undertaken by NSW Fair Trading and the University of Sydney’s School of Business.
“IPART’s funeral investigation will look at affordability and choice for funeral services in rural and regional NSW, as well as across Sydney,” she said.
Ms Cope said the key issues to be explored included whether the choice of funeral providers and services were meeting people’s needs; whether services were affordable; whether the prices being paid reflect the underlying costs of providing funeral services; and the relative costs and benefits of different ways of paying for a funeral, including pre-payment, funeral insurance and funeral bonds.
Submissions on the Issues Paper will be open until 20 November.
IPART’s 11-page Issues Paper, as well as information on how to have a say, can be accessed at this PS News link.