Bristol pensioner's warning after being pressurised into funeral plan

  • Report by Lauren Hall

A 68-year-old woman from Bristol is warning people to take extra care when taking out funeral plans after she was put under extreme pressure by a cold caller.

Research shows almost a third of consumers felt that they had been pushed into signing up to a plan. These can be a good investment to save loved ones the expense of a funeral but not always.

Viv, who did not want to give her surname, recently took out a plan after getting a phone call promising a £1,000 discount if she signed up the same day.

She explained, "I said I couldn't afford to pay for it outright but I could do it over the 10 years, that was fine. And as far as I knew the price was still the same".

It was not. When Viv's son Gary looked into it, the policy she thought would cost less than £4,000 would actually cost well over £5,000.

It was still within the cancellation period but getting out of it was not easy.

Gary said, "She phoned them up to cancel and I must have heard her say six, seven times, 'I want to cancel my policy - no, I want to cancel my policy'. The pressure of this hard sell!"

Viv added, "She was very pushy. If I didn't have someone that was looking out for me, then I would have felt really pressured into taking that policy."

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

People often take out funeral plans to spare their loved ones the cost. Credit: ITV West Country

Derek Gunningham, a funeral director based in Bristol, is concerned about what he's seeing. He said, "Every time you turn your TV on there seems to be some company wanting to sell you a funeral plan.

"It's being sold very aggressively at the moment, which is completely against the nature of my profession in my opinion. It's sad to see that happening."

As of summer 2022, 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. 

Pre-paid funeral plans will be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority from 2021. Credit: PA

The news is welcomed by the consumer group Fairer Finance, but it is concerned about what happens in the meantime.

James Daley, the Managing Director of Fairer Finance, said: "To all intents and purposes now we're still in the Wild West.

"There's a danger at the moment that some of the less scrupulous firms out there are gunning as hard as they can to bring in as much business before the curtain comes down."

Having a funeral plan should bring peace but instead too many customers are being put under pressure and misled. Credit: ITV West Country

The market is currently self-regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority, which says: "The use of pressure sales tactics should not be happening in this market under any circumstances.

"The Funeral Planning Authority rules specifically prohibit cold calling and pressure selling...

"There are a small number of providers who operate outside the FPA regime and we cannot control their behaviour."

In the meantime, customers are warned to take extra care. Financial adviser Emmanuel Asuquo said: "A funeral plan can be necessary for some people. My big thing is that, yes they are useful, but it might not be right for you so you don't have to sign up there and then.

"Definitely always get the information and, if you can't understand it, find a family friend or someone that you know that can go through it with you to make sure it's the right thing before you sign up".

Gary and Viv hope their experience will be a warning to others to take extra care. Credit: ITV West Country

Viv and her son Gary now have first-hand experience of the pressure people are being subjected to. They want to see an end to misleading and overpriced funeral plans, where the cost of dying could end up compromising the cost of living.

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