Dog eats dog. Move on, leave them to it

Charles Cowling

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Here’s the hot news:

“… we can today formally announce that we have initiated legal proceedings against the UK’s largest provider of pre-paid funeral plans, Golden Charter, seeking substantial damages for their actions against Safe Hands Funeral Plans.”

Yes, the Yorkshire terriers have gone for the throat of wee Big Dawgie, and they ain’t stopping there:

“Further claims against other companies are imminent and will be announced at a later date.”

Blimey, what’s this all about?

It seems that Safe Hands “recorded video and audio footage (presented, in January 2015, to the perpetrators via our solicitors) that shows representatives of most of the major plan providers launching vicious, unprovoked, verbal attacks – primarily against Safe Hands, but on each other as well…all in a desperate and shamefully unprofessional effort to get an edge over the competition.” Looks like a sting.

While the lawyers order trebles all round and get ready to enwrap both parties in litigation for as long as legally possible, the good citizens of Funeralworld tremble. A lot of heavily soiled linen looks like being washed in public. God forbid that the public learn just how much of the money they spend on a funeral plan gets divvied up among sundry predators in the form of commissions, sales and marketing costs, directors’ wages, you name it.

Golden Charter describes itself as “owned by and run entirely for the benefit of independent funeral directors”, a claim a great many independent funeral directors now reject. On its website, GC confesses “We work on behalf of more than 3,300 independent funeral directors throughout the UK.” Why on earth would anyone want to buy a funeral plan that works in the service of the very people who stand to make money out of them? Beats us.  

But GC has achieved a market share great enough to enable it effectively to act as funeral broker, and that’s seriously worrying. So: praise the Lord if the hullabaloo has the effect of concentrating minds and curing funeral directors of their dependency on this lousy financial product.

So far as we are concerned at the GFG, the present squabbles are between businesses with a failed business model.

Going forward, we recommend that funeral directors subject a funeral plan to the Lynch Test before endorsing it. The Lynch Test? Yes, the Lynch Test. It goes like this:

Does this plan facilitate face-to-face accountability between the buyer of the funeral– the personal representative of the person who has died — and the seller — the funeral director?

The only good funeral plan is one that restores the lost link between buyer and seller.

Again: The only good funeral plan is one that restores the lost link between buyer and seller.

Can this be achieved? Yes, it can. Shortly, we’ll show you how.

UPDATE 12-02-2015: I wrote to David Latham at NFFD HQ asking how Safe Hands had funded its prime-time ad slot on ITV on 09-02-2015. He replied as follows: 

“The advertising campaign is limited to the Yorkshire area only and was a special introductory package for a new advertiser. Consequently, the amount spent was minimal. More importantly, the cost was met by the NFFD, so I can state, categorically, that it most certainly WILL NOT affect the long term investments of Safe Hands’ plan holders. Whereas some other providers use their clients investments to advertise their services, you may be interested (and comforted) to know that Safe Hands most certainly does not.”

 

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William EcclestonConcerned FDHilary JacksonRichard FearnleyMr XX Recent comment authors

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Hilary Jackson
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Have a look at the latest issue of Which magazine “Funeral plans: prepaid funeral plans claim to meet all the costs of your funeral, but there are catches”
http://www.which.co.uk/money/insurance/reviews-ns/funeral-plans/

William Eccleston
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William Eccleston

We are also in contact with Which? Hilary, as their information is only representative of FPA members and therefore doesn’t offer a real comparion of the overall market.

Richard Fearnley
Guest

The thought of Golden Charter being sued for substantial damages certainly brings me a warm and content glow. I’m also in the process of issuing legal proceedings against them under the Misrepresentation Act 1967. Not sure how Golden Charter think they can legally or ethically withhold and keep for themselves a substantial amount of a plan holders at need proceeds. I don’t think it says in the original contracts that the funeral director gets a substantially reduced amount unless they agree to sell Golden Charter Plans. Under the Misrepresentation Act this would void the contract between the parties and render… Read more »

Mr XX
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Mr XX

This can-o-worms will open eventually. Those of us who know, or think we know will just have to hope that the people who bought them remember we (funeral directors) didn’t actually take their money.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Cute picture: when you see the white of a dog’s eye they look so cartoonish.

I’ll leave discussion of funeral plans to you pros. They are here to stay and there’s certainly scope for improvement. You’re onto something. I look forward to hearing about one that truly makes sense for the buyer.

James Baker
Guest
James Baker

This all reminds me of the Hodgson-era ‘gold rush’ of the late 1980’s, when I were now’t but a mere youth still learning how to clean t’hearse and screw down a coffin lid. Funeral firm owners back then were selling their family businesses like there was no tomorrow. If one firm sold out in an area an amazing number of others would soon follow. (I seem to recall Torquay being one vivid example). Yes, of course, that was back in those heady days of the 80’s when money was sloshing round the country like water in a bucket and people… Read more »

William Eccleston
Guest

James, Fear is not born out of hearsay but reality. Sadly, many hard-working and decent Funeral Directors are seeing their good work put at risk by the industry’s current decline in ethics and transparency (or lack of it) – Numbers don’t lie i’m afraid and if we don’t all act now, the fear will become a grim reality. We have our faults, of course, nobody’s perfect, but we believe in telling things how they are, educating those blind to the movements from above and adopting practices designed to safeguard those who, ironically, give us the most stick. Sometimes, we have… Read more »

Concerned FD
Guest
Concerned FD

Will You’re not being entirely clear and transparent in your comments on this thread though are you? There seems to be a big difference between a funeral director selling a Safe Hands plan and Safe Hands selling a Safe Hands plan. You seem to have failed to mention that plans that Safe Hands sell have somewhere between £500 and £1000 taken from the plan value by head office as commission/fees/marketing or whatever you like to call it before a reduced value is offered to the funeral director. Is that what’s paying for all your advertising? If you’re going to make… Read more »

William Eccleston
Guest

Dear Concerned FD – We have never hidden away from the fact that, when a third party (non FD) sells a plan, we are able to take a maximum of £750 out per plan. This covers admin costs, trustee costs and business running costs as well as introducer’s fees currently at £500. When Safe Hands sells a plan themselves, there is no need to take out the £500 introducer’s fee. If you are able to re-read the blog, you will see that NONE of this is used for our advertising. We do however use some of it for brochures, application… Read more »

William Eccleston
Guest

Hi Andrew – Great to hear that FPS run the same model with their FD’s as us and you’re right, good on them. Would be more interested in these apparent scams you speak of as we are trying to ensure the planning industry is eradicated of anything “hooky”. Rather annoyingly, your point that “It seems ridiculous to me that a funeral planning company can expect a funeral director to enter into a contract without knowing who the client is, and what he or she has been sold” is the exact reason that we allocate our plans when we do. We… Read more »

Andrew Hickson (Kingfisher Funerals)
Guest

Surely ‘The Lynch Test’ omits one very important person from the equation – the person for whom the funeral plan is being bought? Certainly in our experience, the buyer of the funeral plan is the person who will die and require the funeral, not his or her personal representative. But then that will re-ignite the debate on who the funeral is for, I suppose. Our company stance is that we only take on funeral plans that we have personally sold, and where this very link, between the buyer and the seller, exists. It may be business suicide – the funeral… Read more »