Money Mail has repeatedly raised the alarm about the hard-sell pressure tactics used by funeral firms to exploit grieving families.
The competition watchdog was so concerned, it launched a review of the £2 billion-a-year sector in 2018 and, only last month, ordered firms to be more transparent.
Yet an undercover investigation by the Telegraph has this week revealed the appalling tricks still being used to part the bereaved from their cash.
The competition watchdog was so concerned, it launched a review of the £2bn-a-year sector in 2018 and, only last month, ordered firms to be more transparent
Employees at some funeral homes were pushing families towards more expensive options while showing a complete lack of respect for the dead.
In one case, a senior manager was said to have threatened workers with disciplinary action if they dared to point customers towards a different florist.
Most people have little experience of arranging a funeral and rely on guidance from staff.
For firms to prey on this vulnerability to sell extras and boost their bottom line is unforgivable.
And while it’s true that every business has its bad apples, given the sensitive nature of this industry, it is even more vital that service standards are regularly scrutinised.
Yet experts repeatedly warn that cowboy practices are more common than you would hope.
Last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced a raft of new measures to prevent families being ripped off.
But the regulator stopped short of introducing a price cap, after the pandemic hindered its investigation.
Given rising death rates and the fact that only 30 people are allowed to attend a funeral, surely it has never been so important to ensure families are not overcharged.
That the industry (outside Scotland) remains unregulated to this day is criminal. An inspection and registration regime must be fast-tracked.
We are relying on the CMA to ensure our deceased loved ones are treated with the respect they deserve. The regulator must make an example of any funeral firm found profiteering from grief, and throw the book at them.
Reusable face coverings are almost certainly better for the environment, as well as for your bank balance.
Yet I have heard of several cases in recent weeks where customers were told they must wear a disposable mask.
One Money Mail reader, Jill Austin, from Shirley, West Midlands, was ordered to pay £3 for a new mask when visiting a hair salon. ‘It was only when I threatened to take my custom elsewhere that they allowed me in wearing my “contraband” mask,’ she says.
The competition watchdog set up a taskforce in March to crack down on companies that try to cash in on coronavirus.
If you spot a virus villain, you can report the firm online at coronavirus-business-complaint.service.gov.uk — and do let us know too by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back on budget
The speed at which I started spending again as lockdown eased was really quite remarkable.
It began with an 89p black filter coffee from Pret on my first commute back to the office… and, before I knew it, my new and improved savings habit was all but a memory.
I still save each month, but the number of transactions appearing on my statement each week has quadrupled.
Naturally, I tried to justify my somewhat exuberant summer spending as doing my bit to help the economy recover.
Well, the party is over and it’s time for my purse to go back into a mini-lockdown of its own.
In June, I wrote in this column that, while it is unavoidable that some costs will return, we must continue to be prudent and build a cash cushion for emergencies.
So negative interest rates or not, it is really high time I took my own advice.
If you have a budgeting tip to share, write to me at the email address below or Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.
I’ll print the best letters in my column next week.