If it seems too good to be true…. the sad end of the promise of Ecolation

Over time, we have received a number of well informed comments on a post written back in February 2017 on Ecolation, the supposedly innovative alternative to cremation.

It became apparent that we, along with many others, had been taken in by a sales pitch for something that wasn’t at all what it seemed.

The slick PR and the glossy website didn’t materialise into anything.

Fortunately, unlike others, the GFG didn’t have any money to invest in the promises that seemed so plausible when we visited the Dublin HQ, so it’s just embarrassment at having been fooled that we’re nursing now, not an empty bank account.

So we would like to say a public thank you and pay tribute to ‘Mary’, who has been indefatigable in her pursuit of the facts and the source of all the additional information which resulted in her latest comment on the blog post yesterday, including an excerpt from an article in The Sunday Times on July 8th, detailing the sorry end of this pipe dream.

We have reprinted Mary’s comment below to save you looking it up.

‘From the Sunday Times, July 8 2018, “Put on ice” :
“… Last month, the High Court Judge Deirdre Murphy ordered that Ecolegacy should be wound up and a liquidator should investigate payments made to Ennis and Brian McKimm, the company’s erstwhile chief operating officer who was formerly bankrupt in Northern Ireland.
Ecolegacy was “brought to its knees … by the mismanagement and intransigence of Tony Ennis” and the potential misappropriation of company funds, said the judge.  The ecolation unit in the company’s west Dublin warehouse cost 2.2m euro but is not fit for purpose and is worth about 300,000 euros as spare parts.”
I wonder how they spent 2.2m euro on an “ecolation” unit and how, with no possible product to carry out the process in the manner described in the sci-fi video, the whole thing could ever have ended other than with ecoLegacy on its knees.
And they never even had planning permission to do it on so much as a pork chop. 
Deirdre Murphy should be impressed that Anthony Ennis did not follow entirely in the footsteps of Susanne Wiigh-Masak’s footsteps – the high priestess of Promession.  She supported the notion of people putting Promession in their wills and several were held in deep freezers for many years after their death while the relatives hoped that the promised imminent arrival of a promator in Sweden would permit them to give their deceased loved ones their wished for disposal method.  She campaigned tirelessly for them to remain in freezers rather than be forcibly buried when the Swedish state withdrew the exemption because the promator was not materialising.  But, like Mr Ennis, she never came up with the goods.
It seems from this article that Mr Ennis instead focused his energies on wealthy live Americans keen to invest in his “thriving” venture.

Here’s the link to the detailed article.’

There’s an unpleasant odour emanating from somewhere..

Back in 2015, we reported on this blog about the legal skirmish between funeral plan providers Safe Hands Funeral Plans and Golden Charter – see here to refresh your memory.

A paragraph from that blog post came to mind today:

‘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.’

Well, thanks to the wonderful world of t’internet, that very information is now available in an easy to read table, showing just how much money is taken out of the total cost of a funeral plan in non-funeral related fees. Thanks to John Taplin from Open Pre-Paid Funerals Ltd for providing this link.

Have a look here.

Or, for a quick précis, we’ll summarise a couple of the lesser known facts listed in the table for you.

  • The main providers of UK pre-paid funeral plans, namely Dignity, Golden Charter*, Golden Leaves, Avalon and Safe Hands will extract between £785.00 and £1,500.00 in ‘admin fees’ from the total amount you pay them. (Co-operative Funeralcare don’t publish the amount they charge). Editor’s note: *We have been reliably informed that where Golden Charter plans are purchased directly from a funeral director, the administration fee is much lower and the only deduction from the money you pay is £249.00.
  • If you buy a plan provided by one of those five companies from an agent working on their behalf (this could be a solicitor, a will writer, a financial advisor, a funeral director etc) then a commission payment of up to a figure between £500 and £600 is paid to them. (Co-operative Funeralcare don’t use agents, their plans are only available directly, or from their branches).
  • The money set aside within the plans provided by those five companies to cover the third party costs (crematorium fee, doctors’ fees and officiant’s fee or a contribution towards burial costs) ranges between £940 and £1,200. Co-operative Funeralcare don’t specify the amount set aside towards disbursements in their plans.
  • The value of the growth per annum of each plan is not published by any of the six plan providers listed above.
  • The growth of value of the amount set aside for third party costs for each plan is that of the Retail Price Index for five of the plan providers. Golden Leaves use the Consumer Price Index.

So, it is entirely possible that the money you pay in good faith for a funeral plan, thinking that you’re addressing the ever more hysterical annual announcements of the rising costs of funerals escalating beyond comprehension yet again, will in fact be whittled down to the bare bone when death occurs and the funeral needs to be arranged. A pocketful of cash here, a handful of cash there, all disappearing from that plan price in the direction of administration and commission before the ink is even dry on the medical certificate of the cause of death.

As an example, we were told this week about a funeral director receiving a call from one of the funeral plan providers listed above. The plan provider invited the funeral director to carry out a funeral for a plan holder who had just died. The plan holder had paid £3,595 for their funeral. It included all the traditional aspects of a funeral, collecting and caring for the person who had died, providing a coffin, dressing them and providing chapel visits, all professional assistance with the funeral, providing a hearse and a limousine and the third party costs.

So far so what, you might think. £3,595.00 sounds about ok for what is being provided?

Well, the amount that the funeral director was offered for undertaking this funeral was actually £2,445.00.

And, of that £2,445.00, £1,100.00 was allocated for the third party costs. In fact, the third party costs totalled just under £1,200.00.

So the funeral director, the one actually doing the funeral, was effectively invited to do so for £1,245.00.

That’s just £145 more than the £1,100.00 that had whistled out of the original payment to persons unknown in administration fees and commission payments.

The funeral director concerned politely declined the offer. They couldn’t make the sums add up.

The person who paid £3,595.00 for their plan and who died thinking their funeral was all sorted is none the wiser. Their family is probably none the wiser. The plan provider may have found a funeral director willing to carry out this funeral for £1,245.00 and nobody will be any the wiser.

We think it stinks.

There is a whole can of worms writhing underneath the label of ‘Funeral Plans’. Thousands are sold each year to unwitting purchasers who are seduced by lines such as ‘We Believe Your Loved Ones Shouldn’t Be Left With Any Surprise Bills’ (capital letters not our own), or ‘A pre-paid funeral plan from the UK’s largest provider ensures peace of mind for you and your family’. There’s a very nice living to be made from selling funeral plans offered by the big six providers, but not such a good one from carrying out the actual funerals involved.

If you are thinking about planning your funeral in advance, do your homework. The only plan provider that we rate is Open Pre-Paid Funerals Ltd. So highly do we rate them, we have developed our own, unique alternative to funeral plans in partnership with them. It stands apart from every other offering on the market.

It’s the GFGPlan.

GFGPlan puts your interests first. There is an administrative fee of £195.00. That’s it.  Other than that, there are no deductions whatever from the money placed in the GFG Plan pot. Zilch. Not one penny is spent on salaries, nobody gets a commission, and there are no free pens.

Read about it here.

Funeral poverty anyone?

‘High level return on investment within 2 to 5 years’
  • 2,500 plots available to investors
  • Plot price to investors £2,400
  • High level return within two to five years
  • Plots are valued at over £3,750
  • Clearly defined exit strategy
  • Minimum investment is 4 plots

‘A very rare opportunity has arisen to purchase burial plots in London’s Rainham cemetery, which is being extended to accommodate the high demand for burial plots within Greater London…..’

‘….As a unique investment brokerage we specialise in sourcing and delivering the best alternative investment projects worldwide. 

We are proud to present the Rainham Cemetery Phase 2 within the Greater London area. 

We are the EXCLUSIVE master agent for this project. After major planning and preparation we are finally able to offer new burial plots for sale to the general public. 

Due to the desirable location and the critical state of the market, plots are being offered purely on a first-come first-served basis.’

There’s good money to be made in this burial business apparently, according to the team of ‘highly skilled and very successful individuals’ aka the EXCLUSIVE master agents at Harley Investments Ltd.
 
We have a copy of the brochure at GFG Towers for anyone looking to make a quick buck out of bereaved families needing to find somewhere to bury a relative. 
 

Shark eats shark as LM Funerals are gobbled up for £37.5 million

Posted by Charles

Marvellous news from last Wednesday’s Telegraph: 

The Duke Street consortium, which includes Babson Capital Europe and Metric Capital Partners, has acquired LM Funerals from Sovereign Capital, a buy-out firm focused on investing in small companies.

LM Funerals is the third largest funeral company in Britain, with more than 60 branches – mainly in the Midlands and the south-east of England.

Sovereign bought LM Funerals in 2003 and used the company as a platform to consolidate what is a highly fragmented sector. Under Sovereign’s ownership, the company grew from 29 sites to 65 through a series of nine acquisitions and several new branch openings.

You’ll like this next bit:

Often the acquired businesses continued to trade under their original names after the deals were completed. This was done to ensure the “preservation of trusted local reputations and relationships that have been built over a sustained period”. [Source]

QUERY: If consolidation of a highly fragmented sector is a Good Thing, why the reticence about ownership?

FOLLOWUP QUERY: No mention of the benefits for consumers? (Oh, them.) 

FACT: Sovereign Capital paid £11m for LM in 2003. They’ve sold for £37.5m. The deal therefore represents a 3.4 x return. 

FACT: The name of the managing partner of Metric Capital Partners is John Synic. Really. 

THE GFG SAYS: Take the money and run, boys. Trebles all round!!

Hat-tip to Andrew Plume. 

Hurrah for Dignity!

Announcement by the Press Association:

The UK’s largest provider of funeral-related services has reported higher profits after its strongest year for the number of families planning ahead for a death.

Dignity, which has 600 funeral locations including 35 crematoria, said the number of pre-arranged funeral plans on its books and yet to take place increased to 265,000 in 2011, from 238,000 the previous year.

The group, which last year held 62,300 funerals, allows customers to plan a funeral in advance and make provisions towards the cost through its Dignity Guaranteed Funeral Plan.

Dignity said underlying pre-tax profits increased by 3% to £41.6 million in the year to December 30, as it increased its location portfolio by 33 in the year.

Sebastien Jantet, analyst at broker Investec, said Dignity had delivered “yet another set of strong results”. He added: “The highlights were a strong performance from the pre-arranged funerals division.”

The Sutton Coldfield-based group said its funeral services division, which brings in the largest proportion of profits, had received investment of around £9.5 million, with roughly half of this funding the replacement of its hearses and limousines.

The group’s crematoria division saw operating profits increase 7% to £21.3 million as it conducted 47,600 cremations, compared with 45,200 the previous year.

The group completed the construction of two crematoria in Somerset and Worcestershire in the period, while work continues on a new crematorium in Essex. The group is also the preferred bidder to operate Haringey Council’s crematorium in north London.

Looking ahead, Mike McCollum, Dignity chief executive, said: “While 2012 has started more quietly than 2011, the board remains confident in the group’s prospects and its expectations for 2012 remain positive and unchanged.”

Here at the GFG-Batesville Tower we celebrated this marvellous news by announcing a half day holiday (unpaid, of course) and shooting an intern. 

Die to let

In Dorset a woman has been billed for £3,000 because her father negligently failed to give his care home 28 days’ notice of his own death. Full story in the Daily Mail here

No opportunity wasted

Posted by Vale

Someone dies and another sees an opportunity: death is an opening in more ways than one. Now, it seems, the cyber criminals have got in on the act. When Whitney Houston was discovered in her bath at the weekend all the nodes and synapses of the internet flickered into life and, as the Malware Blog reports, Cybercriminals were quick to take advantage. The site found a fake video spreading on Facebook:

Wall posts with the subject “I Cried watching this video. RIP Whitney Houston” come with link to the supposed video. Clicking it leads them to a Facebook page that contains a link to the video. However, clicking this link only leads to several redirections until users are lead to the usual survey scam site.

Apparently the same trick was tried when Amy Winehouse died. I can’t for the life of me make out the commercial benefit, but there must be some. Don’t you hate this way that death can generate this sort of conscience-less entrepreneurialism? No, wait a minute…