A couple of thoughts

Fran Hall

Those additional observations on the FSCSR consultation we mentioned in our previous post this week:

1. At the GFG, while we welcome any improvements in the funeral industry Codes of Practice, we despair at the length of time it has taken NAFD and SAIF to come up with revisions to existing industry codes to make them remotely fit for purpose.

Ten years ago, on 14 June 2010, Charles wrote a blog post ‘Chasing the money’: 

Here’s an excerpt:

“In 2002 Helen Parker, editor of Which, commented: “We want to see all funeral directors in the UK signed up to a standard code of practice. The code should be monitored and enforced by an independent body.” 

In response, Alan Slater, CEO of the NAFD gave this assurance: “We are currently mid-way through the process of improving our code … Once finalised, the new code will be sent to the OFT.” 

The NAFD’s Slater said this in 2002. 

But as of February 2009, the NAFD code of practice has not been approved by OFT. In fact, none of the funeral trades associations’ codes of practice have been approved by OFT. Approval would mean that the codes of practice would be blessed by the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme, offering a much greater degree of assurance to consumers.”

So, in 2002, in response to public criticism, the NAFD showed willing to improve their code of practice. 18 years later, they are still working on it.

NB It’s not clear if the quote from Helen Parker was made before or after the role of Funeral Ombudsman was axed by the funeral trade bodies – that happened in 2002 too.

2. The FSCSR appears to be recommending that the two funeral trade associations should be an integral part of a proposed interim regulator before a statutory body is set up. (Details on page 10 of the FSCSR consultation document. It’s entitled ‘Recommendation that government should work with the industry to establish an interim regulatory body’.)

In brief, having recommended that a regulatory body be appointed to regulate the funeral sector, recognising that there would likely be a significant delay in bringing forward the necessary legislative work, the FSCSR is ‘minded to recommend’ that the two funeral trade associations, NAFD & SAIF work with the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards to create an ‘independent’ interim regulator. Albeit one without a mandatory remit or statutory powers.

Um, that will be a big NO from us.

The role of a trade association is to represent their members’ interests.

We believe that this role is incompatible with the role of a regulator, interim or not. 

And we’re not the only ones. Remember the Funeral Ombudsman, whose role was axed by the funeral industry almost twenty years ago?

The late, highly respected consumer academic lawyer, lecturer and author Professor Geoffrey Woodroffe was appointed Funeral Ombudsman in 1994. His tenure lasted until 2002, during which time there were two critical reports about the funeral industry by the Office of Fair Trading and a third damning report by the Consumers Association.

Let’s hear what Professor Woodroffe thought about the involvement of trade associations:

Ombudsmen are impartial. How on earth can anyone expect regulation processes set up by trade bodies to be impartial and fair? People are extremely vulnerable when they are arranging funerals for relatives or partners. Independent regulation is vital.”