The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Buyer Beware

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

There’s a new pup in town.

It is with a heavy sigh that we bring news of yet another swimmer in the crowded waters of funeral plan providers, complete with grandiose claims, dubious mathematics and an apparent complete and wilful ignorance of the real costs involved in providing a funeral of the type they are offering.

Prosperous Life Limited has recently entered the unregulated funeral plan provider market, and is actively touting its wares to funeral directors and the vulnerable public alike.

The sole director of the company, a Mr Edward Gerald Smethurst, has a broad and varied experience in life, with positions as a director or secretary of 49 companies over the last 16 years  None of these have anything to do with funerals other than this, his latest appointment in a company incorporated on January 23rd 2017.

Now we’re sure that Mr Smethurst is a very nice man who knows a great deal about window fitting, alarm systems, bathrooms and bedrooms, helicopter charter and conservatories, but we’re not sure that he’s the man to entrust with your savings when it comes to paying for your funeral.

It’s the maths that bother us.

The ‘Prosperous Silver’ plan will cost you £2,400. ‘Prosperous Gold’ is £2,600 and ‘Prosperous Platinum’ £2,800. The chart below shows what you get for those figures. And how much is set aside for paying the cremation fee, the minister and the doctors (£1,000 in total for all three. Not enough by a long chalk, with  minister fees around £180, doctors’ fees £164.00 and some crematoria charging £999 for the cremation,)

Predictably, there is nothing shown for commission paid to the seller out of the remaining figures. Nor the amount of money taken in administration fees.

Perhaps Prosperous Life Ltd don’t pay commission to the agents selling plans?

Maybe all Prosperous Life admin is done free of charge?

Maybe Prosperous Life is a philanthropic, not for profit organisation with a network of similarly generous funeral directors across the UK willing to provide a solid coffin and a hearse and two limousines plus all other funeral director costs at the time of need for a maximum £1,800?

Or maybe not.

As our worried insider wrote to us when they let us know about this latest funeral plan provider:

“Who are they going to get to carry out the funerals for these people and what standard of care are they going to receive?”

Regulation anyone?

 

The sales pitch to funeral directors from the Prosperous Life ‘Funeral Director Liaison Manager’ is shown below.

“Prosperous Life Limited is a prepaid funeral plan provider, operating across the whole of the UK. We offer clients a choice of products, including not only the funeral plan but also legal services to compliment the plans purchased. Some of the services we offer include Wills, Probates and Power of Attorney.

All plans guarantee to cover the designated funeral director’s fees and services, plus an allowance towards disbursements. All monies paid by customers are held securely in a trust called The Great British Funeral Plan Trust and this is a completely separate entity to Prosperous Life Limited, which is managed and governed by an independent board of trustees, including chartered accountants and registered solicitors.

At the time of need, funds will be paid to the designated funeral director within 48 hours.

We are actively growing in the prepaid funeral space and generate new customers via several different channels including advertising in most national and regional papers.

With all this said, we are constantly trying to grow our funeral director panel and make mutually beneficial relationships. We get many requests for specific funeral directors as well as customers just wanting a reputable funeral director local to themselves”

 

8 comments on “Buyer Beware

  1. Kathryn Edwards

    Wednesday 28th June 2017 at 1:07 pm

    So, what should we do? Find a sympathetic MP and get something going in the HoC? Find a consumer interests body that would be willing to advance the issue of regulation? Get some mainstream media coverage?

    • Sam Robson

      Thursday 29th June 2017 at 10:59 pm

      In answer to your Questions Kathryn, all of the above (below).

      I obviously gave too much information the other day as my father-in-law received a very disturbing phone call explaining that if we continued to expose commercially sensitive information about their organisations, we would be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. (which is fair enough)

      But they manacling caller also stated that if the law didn’t achieve the recourse they desire, that other methods would be used to ensure we ‘kept stum!’

      I’m staggered and astonished. I feel like I’m in some kind of Godfather film!

      Well, just to make clear, we will tell the truth, nothing more, nothing less, and we will not be intimidated in any way.

      I can’t believe that one of my only social media interactions has come to this.

      A despondent potential funeral industry employee! I think I’ll keep myself to myself in future!

      Sam

      • susan brenfall

        Friday 30th June 2017 at 10:56 pm

        This person litigates against anyone who questions his practices and has had complaints made about him to the Law Society – be prepared to be bombarded with threats of litigation and costs as have many people he has been in business with and contractors he has employed to carry out work for him. Employees of his security firm Palladium Associates plc who are contracted to Metrolink in Manchester detained a person who subsequently died which has been reported in the newspaper but Metrolink continue to employ them. Contact the Law Society if you continue to experience threats from him although I am not sure they will do anything about him – they have not to date.

  2. Sam Robson

    Wednesday 28th June 2017 at 12:41 am

    It’s all becoming madness IMHO. I agree with everyone’s comments and all aspects of the article itself. A good insightful read all round! I particularly like David Holmes’s suggestion of the ‘Preposterous Plan’ and they probably chuckle to themselves about their choice of name every time some unfortunate member of the public purchases one, I’m sad to say.

    I’ve been considering joining my wife’s family’s business for the last couple of years and funeral plans, or the lack of regulation surrounding them, seems to be a major issue within the industry and has given me some concern when considering my career choices.

    Another issue that we’ve noticed which is directly connected with these funeral plan providers, is a marked increase in new competitors advertising locally from further afield (and I’m not whining about a bit of competition here), and, when we approached a couple of them, we were staggered!

    One worked from an end terraced in a run down area with the hearse parked on the grass outside and another was above a pizza shop. Anyway, I had a chat with the owner of the one that was making my stomach growl and found out that he charges £999 plus disbursements and 60% of his business comes from funeral plans! He also does tiling (time served, tradesman for 20 years he assured me) and gave me his card. He then through his arms above his head and said, “No overeds (sic) seeeeee”, and then proceeded to tap the side of his head with the yellow/brown stained end of his index finger saying, “ah ah” whilst giving me a little wink!

    I know I sound like a snob but I couldn’t possibly paint the right mental picture of my surroundings and the dialogue so I won’t even try. But, I’m not a snob – Just (at that time anyway), an exasperated, bewildered and concerned member of the public!

    I think that situation speaks for itself and exemplifies some of the other effects these organisations have in the industry.

    Anyway, back to the point I’d like to make.

    My Father-in-Law was approached by a company called Horizon and another called Pride on the same day recently who both offered ‘”the best commission in the industry!”, to which my dad replied enthusiastically, “I’ve got someone coming into buy one later, how much would I get for a standard funeral?”

    He couldn’t get a figure unfortunately but the conversation went downhill from there needless to say. My Dad (in-law) then asked how much he would be paid to carry a funeral on their behalf, and, again, this was unanswered, or at least ambiguously talked about the matter for a few minutes with no real substance or conclusion, to the point my ‘Paps’ (that’s what I actually call him would you believe) decided enough was enough.

    He asked a couple of industry specific questions of this individual (who had purported to have extensive industry experience) and the knowledge, or lack thereof, was more than evident.

    He then started digging around on the internet about these companies and asked me to do the same but I could only find one of them with any history and the other appeared to have just been incorporated (a few weeks ago) but they were both located very close to each other. I then stumbled upon an article on a site which was most enlightening! This had lots of information about the directors and associates of the company, some of which, was quite damning, to say the least.

    I’ve just had another read of the article just now) and it possibly isn’t as shocking as I previously made out and it may be a little sensationalised to some extent but nevertheless, it does highlight the types of business groups entering the industry. I remember hearing someone say recently, “those nuisance callers trying to get me to claim PPI or telling me I should claim for the recent accident (that never happened). Now I get 3 calls a week telling me to sort my funeral out!”

    Well, it seems, the background of the current and past directors/shareholders is from the ‘claims’ ‘debt’ industries and they’ve come under some investigations from the FCA and had their licenses revoked at some point in the past. I only mention this particular point as I don’t really think this is something that the author should have highlighted but one of the shareholders/previous directors has also been convicted of a violent criminal offence but I got the impression it was a long time ago, and, we were all young once – It could have been for pushing a traffic warden, who knows, but he’s obviously using his brain now and not his fists.

    This is the page of the article: http://funeralplanningwatchdog.com/pride-planning-alert

    What did concern me about that article, as well as this one, is where it’s all going to end and the fallout that will happen when it does. Who will pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong?.

  3. Tuesday 27th June 2017 at 6:26 pm

    They cannot possibly have properly researched funeral costs and charges? The Prosperous plan – is that some kind of joke, maybe they should more accurately call it the preposterous plan?

  4. Tuesday 27th June 2017 at 4:04 pm

    This is to all intents and purposes a type of Ponzi scheme and therefore a fraud. Ironically if their commissions and costs are not outrageously high (which they could well be) they may actually be able to keep going for years if they can keep growing their sales. The shit only finally hits the fan when they run out of cash and it becomes clear that the growing pile of assets they should be holding onto doesn’t exist. In theory this type of plan shouldn’t need regulation because it is fraudulent. I’d have thought anyone receiving an approach from this Company ought to think about reporting the approach to the National Fraud and Crime Reporting Centre. I don’t know what sort of reaction they’d get but it’s worth a try.

  5. Tuesday 27th June 2017 at 10:30 am

    I note with interest and some alarm that Mr Smethurst is also a director of the much challenged `Madeline`s Fund` – Leaving no stone unturned limited.

    The following link refers to a very detailed and damming report on that particular fund`s filed accounts;- http://www.gerrymccannsblogs.co.uk/Nigel/id405.htm

    Whatever the absolute truth of these matters, there can be little doubt that these sharks also fish in very murky waters.

  6. Tuesday 27th June 2017 at 8:38 am

    Let’s just look at the “Prosperous Silver” plan….I’ll come to the others shortly. The figure of £2400 quoted which includes £1000 towards disbursements is woefully inadequate.
    That leaves £1400 for the rest of the funeral expenses. This wouldn’t even come close to paying the funeral director for the service they are providing. In fact, at these costs, the funeral director is essentially being asked to provide some of their services free of charge to a family.
    I would say an average figure for this service would be between £1995 – £2300.

    The same as the “Prosperous Gold” plan. For £1600 I don’t know of a funeral director that can provide all of their usual services plus a limousine for the family.
    Again, the average for this would be between £2400 and £2700.

    My biggest concern is the “Prosperous Platinum” plan where you can have a solid wood coffin and two limousines and all for £1800.
    Respectfully, this just isn’t going to happen.
    The average for this type of funeral I would suggest would be between £3400 and £3800.

    * Averages based on funerals I have undertaken and for professional services only*

    This leaves an overwhelming shortfall between what these people are selling these plans for and what a funeral actually costs.

    The day someone signs on for one of these plans, there is a huge deficit. That can only lead to two things.

    The first, the funeral director agrees to undertake the funeral for the price stated. They end up providing services free of charge to the pre-payment company. I would humbly suggest, that just isn’t going to happen.

    The second and most likely thing that will happen is that this plan provider will struggle to find a funeral director who will carry out these plans on their behalf.
    Where does that then leave a family and that is assuming this company pay the prices quoted in full for these plans….something which I highly suspect won’t be the case.

    I’m afraid it is absolutely time for regulation because this is a national scandal waiting to happen. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t happened already to be honest.

    It is also the time for public education. I can extoll the virtues of the company I use just like every funeral director in the UK. We will all say our plan provider is the best.
    The public need to be educated on what a funeral is made up of (professional services and disbursements) and they absolutely must read the small print.

    If this plan provider and do a “Prosperous Platinum” plan for £2800 and every other provider charges say £4500, then you have to wonder why this is so cheap.

    If something feels too good to be true, then it usually is.

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