We haven’t approved you, Dignity Funerals

Fran Hall

 

 

We want to make it very clear to anyone who might be unaware – the Good Funeral Guide CIC had nothing to do with the recent announcement of Dignity PLC’s sidekick, Simplicity Cremations as ‘The Best Direct Cremation Provider 2018’ with a ‘Good Funeral Award’.

Having been co-organiser since they began, the Good Funeral Guide is no longer involved in any way with the Good Funeral Awards, we parted company with Brian Jenner amicably last year. 

We wrote about it in a post on the blog earlier this year. And Brian wrote about it on his blog too

We have no knowledge or understanding of the deliberations involved in arriving at a decision to name a Dignity offshoot the best in the country.

Rest assured, had we still been involved in the Good Funeral Awards, we would have strongly resisted handing such a valuable accolade to the marketing people at Dignity to emblazon on their website and include in their press releases.

It simply wouldn’t have happened.

Our record shows our feelings about Dignity PLC. We have written almost 50 blog posts over the years, making our thoughts very clear.

Today we feel it is essential to write another.

Yesterday’s announcement that the online-only, Dignity owned, direct cremation service Simplicity Cremations is now offering clients an attended ceremony at a Dignity owned crematorium for an all inclusive price of £1,895 references the fact that Simplicity Cremations was recognised as Best Direct Cremation Provider at this year’s Good Funeral Awards.

We are concerned that this might be misconstrued as an endorsement of some kind by the Good Funeral Guide CIC by anyone who missed the announcements of our withdrawal from the organising of the awards.

It is not.

We do not endorse Dignity’s calculated attempt to step in as a solution to the issue of funeral poverty by offering their services at a rock bottom price.

We consider funeral poverty to have been very much contributed to by the bloated price increases charged year on year by Dignity PLC and other funeral providers following their business model.

We do not endorse the fact that, in areas where Dignity own a crematorium, local people looking for a low cost funeral will now find that the best price for a funeral service is offered by a company also owned by Dignity.

Meanwhile, families from the same areas preferring to use a local independent funeral director to assist them will be charged among the highest fees for cremation*, making the overall cost to these families for similar services disproportionally higher.

How is this fair to bereaved families?

*(Across the UK, the highest cremation fees are charged by Dignity crematoria. See the 2016 report from Beyond here, showing 9 out of the 10 highest priced UK crematoria are Dignity owned.) 

How is this a level playing field for small independent funeral directors? For small business owners trying to compete in a market where the cremation fee charged to their clients appears to be vastly higher than that charged by Dignity to clients choosing an ‘Attended Funeral’ from their wholly-owned Simplicity Cremations service?

Here’s an example.

If you live in the Oxford area and want a funeral on a day and time of your choice at Oxford Crematorium (owned by Dignity), and you use a non-Dignity owned funeral director to help you, the cremation fee you will be charged is £1,070 (plus, potentially, doctors’ fees of £164). 

If you instead choose the Dignity owned Simplicity Cremations, the full price you will be asked for for the entire funeral service, including cremation fee and doctors fees is £1,895. You can choose the date and time to suit you.

This means that Simplicity Cremations (aka Dignity PLC) is willing to provide all the remaining funeral directing services, including the collection of the person who died, their care, dressing them and taking them to the crematorium on a day and at a time of your choice for just £661.

How is this possible? While there are obviously savings to be made by dealing with bereaved families by phone rather than in person, the remaining services surely come at a greater cost than £661? The only way that we can think that this can make financial sense is that the cremation fee element is not £1,070 for clients engaging Simplicity Cremations rather than another funeral director.

Is this the case? If so, this is not acceptable.

We do not endorse Dignity crematoria offering differential prices to clients of Dignity funeral services, (whether trading under the online Simplicity Cremations name or the locally named high street Dignity branches).

We do not endorse bereaved families being unfairly penalised for choosing a funeral director that is not also owned by the owner of a crematorium in their locality.

We will be writing to the Competition and Markets Authority** to enquire how this situation sits with them.

We suggest anyone who shares our concerns does the same.

**The Competition and Markets Authority ‘promotes competition for the benefit of consumers, both within and outside the UK. Our aim is to make markets work well for consumers, businesses and the economy.’

 

 

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Tim
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Tim

Local authorities have historically had one hand tied behind their backs in not being able to compete on equal terms with the private sector. This was enshrined in law. Now, however, the Localism Act exists and some authorities are establishing trading companies and looking toward prividing a funeral directing (and other) outlet. Quite a few already provide a municipal funeral service which is a low cost option arranged and tendered to local funeral directors. A fixed price is secured for a basic specification and those that use the service are guaranteed that price. Halton Borough Council has recently launched its… Read more »

Public
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Public

Some good accounting assumptions there. I think I am starting to understand this a little better – and I can kind of see a way that the situation could change a little for the better. But first of all, I have these questions: (1) Private crematoria have set up and can successfully charge more than their public sector counterparts because (a) there are a few places without a crematorium close by ? and (b) people tend to have a ceremony at the crematorium at the time the body arrives at the crematorium so this limits the number of cremations unless… Read more »

ANDREW PLUME
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ANDREW PLUME

Dear Fran There’s a vast profit to be made by operating Crematoriums. You have ‘asked’ “…..Dignity is willing to provide all the remaining funeral directing services, including the collection of the person who died, their care, dressing them and taking them to the crematorium on a day and at a time of your choice for just £661…….” mmm……………almost certainly not imo. I have done some ‘creative’ but logical thinking and looking at the potential costings involved. I’ve deliberately not factored in the costs of Dignity setting up this operation Starting at ‘the removal/collection’ from a large Hospital close to one… Read more »

public
Guest
public

I am so lost with this price of a funeral business. Do some councils still own crematoria? And if so, roughly how much do they charge jsut for a cremation – not a service or use of a chapel room there etc? Why are there more and more private crematoria and fewer and fewer council crematoria?

TonyB
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TonyB

Most publicly owned crematoria have their prices on their websites. For example, Mortlake (SW London) charges £595 for a standard daytime cremation, £365 if you take the 0900 or 0930 slot: https://www.mortlakecrematorium.org/price-list/

Tim
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Tim

The number of council owned crematoria has not decreased. In fact a small number of news facilities have been built in recent years. The expansion of private crematoria has been massive. Usually built in proximity to busier council crematoria where business is diluted. Private sector fees are generally much higher than those of local authorities (see the fees table in the Royal London report), and those affected authorities losing business might increase fees to maintain standards. This could result in yet another driver for funeral poverty. Seems that deceased persons are rapidly becoming a commercial proposition which is totally distasteful.… Read more »

public
Guest
public

Oh thanks Tim and TonyB that’s interesting. One gets the impression from the outside that the number of council ones have gone down. The way it all works is baffling to the customer. I organised a funeral around 5 or 6 years ago and had a puzzling experience and I think I now understand it better having read a bit on here. Went to the local undertaker – which I’ve now realised is dignity – wanted a cremation on a particular day, but not to have a service or visit to the crem – simply to say goodbye to the… Read more »

Jo Williamson
Guest

Thank you Fran. Very disappointing that the Good Funeral Awards have gone down this route.

Gregory Taylor
Guest

Interesting article but if we are all honest, are we surprised to read this, its Dignity at the end of the day and nothing they do is a shock.
Might be time for a whistle blower to come forward and let it be common knowledge if and what the costs are for a independently owned fd and a Dignity owned fd… if the costs are different then the ammunition is available to use.

liza mccarron
Guest
liza mccarron

Yep. They’re clearly cross subsidising their own businesses to the detriment of others and the public in attempt to become monopolistic provider.