ACT funeral industry to be reviewed

As a forward thinker – inventor, author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat – and one of a Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, once said, there were only two things certain in life: death and taxes. The statement has stood the test of time.

The passing of a loved one is an intensely difficult and emotional time for the family, and the last thing they want to think about is costly and complex arrangements for the funeral. Arranging a funeral is one of life’s hardest and saddest tasks. You’re surrounded by grief, usually compounded by your own and, it’s at times like this you’re most vulnerable and can be convinced to part with more money than need be, simply to have the task end as quickly and painlessly as possible

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were 1,813 registered deaths in the ACT on in 2014. The cost per funeral ranges from as $4,000 to $15,000 or a local ACT industry worth between $7,252,00 and $27,195,00 per annum. Most likely more.

The people I have spoken to in the electorate of Murrumbidgee, particularly older folk, are concerned about an emerging pattern about the social pressure that some people feel that they should pay for the right kind of service (even if the individual had money now, they worried that by the time they died there would not be enough for the funeral), on the one hand; and the perception that funeral costs are ‘escalating’ on the other.

The questions being put are these – are funeral expenditures justified, are funeral companies being exploitative and is the consumer getting value for money. Compounding this are funeral companies often wanting payment at the time of the event – not months later when the proceeds of the deceased’s investments or estate are distributed.

Here are the typical items you need to pay for when arranging a funeral:

The ACT government to my knowledge has never undertaken a comprehensive review of the operation of the funeral industry in the ACT. Nor has the ‘toothless paper tigers’ the ACCC or the Productivity Commission undertaken any work in this area that is of huge concern and worry for older Australians.

However, in NSW, the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues reviewed The Funeral Industry (Ordered to be printed according to the Resolution of the House Report 36 – December 2005). “The issue of costs was a key one for consumer groups who spoke to the Committee …. and Consumer groups expressed concern regarding the adequacy and transparency of pricing information available from funeral directors.” The constituents I speak to in Murrumbidgee also share these same concerns.

What will the Community Alliance Part do!

  • The Community Alliance Party if elected would sponsor a review of the funeral industry in the ACT and look at options for more market competition.

Background and reference points

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