Warnings as rise in vulnerable people being scammed over funeral plans

  • Video report by Lauren Hall

There are warnings that elderly and vulnerable people are facing a surge in cold callers using high pressure sales tactics to encourage them to take out funeral plans. 

It is feared less reputable firms are piling on the pressure now, ahead of new tighter regulations which come in next year.  

 Viv, who’s 68, recently took out a plan after getting a phone call, promising a £1,000 discount if she signed up the same day. 

When her son looked into it, the policy she thought would cost less than £4,000, would actually cost well over £5000.

Trying to cancel it wasn’t easy and Viv says the salesperson was “very pushy”.

She did get her money back, but these high-pressure sales tactics are a big problem in the funeral industry.

Jo Williamson is a funeral director based in Loose, Maidstone. She’s concerned about the practices of less reputable firms. “There’s a lot to be wary of when you’re looking at a funeral plan. Often people get phoned up – cold callers. Never ever take one of those plans” she told us. 

As of next summer, firms selling pre-paid funeral plans will be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. It should mean an end to cold calling and dodgy sales tactics.

It is welcomed by the consumer group Fairer Finance, but they are concerned about what happens in the meantime.

 The market is currently self-regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority. They told us:  “The Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) rules specifically prohibit cold calling and pressure selling on any basis whether over the phone or in person…There are a small number of providers who operate outside the FPA regime and we cannot control their behaviour.  However, we believe that they should not be pressure selling and should be following the good practice requirements of our rules.”

An FCA spokesperson said: “We’ve seen the real harm cold-calling can cause. That’s why we have proposed to ban it once we become the industry regulator, as we have done in other sectors we regulate. We’ve also proposed that those selling funeral plans are subject to full checks on their fitness to operate. Where we know of past poor conduct, we’ll consider it as part of this process.”

They added: “We encourage consumers thinking of purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan to look into their options carefully to decide whether it’s the right product for them. Consumers should be sure they understand what their plan does and doesn’t provide before they pay, and whether there are extra charges applicable.”