Glasnevin Trust to make funeral costs more transparent

Trust accused of anti-competitive practices over selling burial plots, headstones

 

The largest provider of funeral services in Ireland, which was accused of anti-competitive practices, has agreed to make significant changes to how it sells burial plots, headstones and headstone foundations to ensure transparency and protect vulnerable consumers.

The agreement was reached between the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the Glasnevin Trust which is also known as the Dublin Cemeteries Committee.

The Trust is the largest provider of funeral services in Ireland and operates five cemeteries and two crematoria in Dublin. It also operates Glasnevin Florists and Glasnevin Cemetery Monument Works (GCMW), a company which creates and erects headstones.

In November 2011, the Commission received a complaint alleging it and its subsidiaries were engaging in anti-competitive practices and after a preliminary assessment, the Commission identified concerns and a formal investigation was launched.

The investigation found what “appeared to be a lack of transparency for consumers in terms of the final cost of burial services”.

Consumers who chose to erect a headstone months after a burial “were sometimes surprised to discover that a separate foundation fee was also payable, in addition to the funeral director’s costs and the cost of the burial plot and the headstone,” the CCPC said.

It was also alleged that Glasnevin Trust was waiving, or reducing, these fees if consumers opted to purchase headstones from its monument arm, potentially putting competing headstone providers at a competitive disadvantage.

The Trust was also accused of discriminating against competing headstone providers in terms of waiting times for foundations, access to cemeteries and promotional activities.

Under the agreement that Glasnevin Trust will make its prices more transparent to consumers, making it easier for consumers to find a price list for burial plots and foundation fees on Glasnevin Trust website and in Glasnevin Trust’s offices.

It has also agreed to inform consumers explicitly that foundation fees are not included in the purchase price of a burial plot and will also provide flexibility to consumers in terms of when these fees are payable.

Given that many funeral directors often act on behalf of bereaved families, Glasnevin Trust has taken measures to ensure that funeral directors will inform consumers of the separate cost of the foundation fee.

Glasnevin Trust has also agreed to treat competing headstone providers in an equal and non-discriminatory manner in terms of waiting times for permits and foundations, access to cemeteries and regulatory requirements.

The trust will also allow competing headstone providers to advertise in Glasnevin Trust promotional brochures subject to the payment of the same fees payable by GCMW for such advertising.