Safeguarding consumers in a rapidly changing environment - the important role of the Funeral Planning Authority
18 February 2019
The Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) is a voluntary regulator for the funeral planning industry which exists to protect consumers who want to make funeral arrangements in advance.
While the industry continues to change at pace, with new providers continually entering the market, we look at why the FPA and the principles of its Code of Practice have never been more important.
The funeral planning industry has grown exponentially in the past two decades as more and more people seek to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their funeral wishes will be taken care of. But as the industry has grown, the FPA has had to fight to keep up and maintain authority over plan providers.
Since 2002, the FPA has existed to oversee the funeral planning sector, help keep funeral plan pre-payments secure and ensure that customers receive the funeral they paid for when it is needed. Funeral plan providers, like Ecclesiastical Planning Services, can choose to register for membership, providing they agree to operate under the high standards demanded by the organisation’s strict Code of Practice. Providers are then required to re-register on an annual basis and each time the application is considered by the FPA’s Compliance Committee.
The FPA Code of Practice sets out how plan providers should conduct business, including how customers’ money should be held. There are also rules around the marketing and advertising of funeral plans, which state that funeral plan promotions must be in good taste and not make any unsubstantiated claims. The rules put forward by the Code of Practice are basic guidelines, which all registered plan providers are expected to follow in order to protect consumers. Failure to do so can result in FPA membership status being revoked.
One of the biggest issues facing the FPA however is that registration is non-mandatory. Because the industry is not presently regulated, funeral planning firms are free to operate and sell funeral plans independently of the FPA. This means that customers who purchase funeral plans with non-member firms have no independent assurance that the funeral plan they have placed money into is of sufficient quality or is set up in the right way. They are also unable to seek the FPA’s assistance if complaints about their funeral plan arise.
In recent years, the integrity of the funeral planning industry has been called into question as some funeral plan providers have been found to be in breach of FPA guidelines, using aggressive and sometimes misleading tactics to increase sales. As the HM Treasury continues with its review of the funeral planning industry, which will undoubtedly result in stricter rules and regulation, the FPA continues to enforce its Code of Practice by maintaining a high profile and demanding its voluntary members fulfil their duties in offering fair service to customers.
Ecclesiastical Planning Services is a registered member of the FPA and adheres to its Code of Practice. We recommend that wherever you purchase a funeral plan from, you check in advance that the company administering the plan is also a registered member. Visit the FPA website to find out more.