Companies operating in the £4.8bn funeral plan market have been sent a grim warning to clean up their act or else, after one of the top firms in the sector has been forced to suspend its operation following claims that it has been targeting vulnerable consumers with illegal and pressurised marketing tactics.
The funeral plan industry has grown exponentially in recent years. According to a recent study by Fairer Finance, 200,000 plans worth an average of £4,000 were sold in the UK in 2016 alone, and there are currently over 1.2 million plans in place, worth nearly £4.8bn.
Having first exposed the charity sector, then moved on to the gambling industry, it seems the pre-paid funeral market will be the next under the cosh, after allegations that Plan My Funeral has been using dodgy practices to flog its packages.
According to an undercover investigation by the Daily Mail, staff at the company’s call centre boasted of bullying pensioners with constant and repeated calls if they turned them down and “tricked” an elderly customer into handing over personal information without consent. Another undercover journalist posing as a pensioner was warned his family might end up in debt if he did not buy a funeral plan.
Plan My Funeral has since suspended its operation and launched an internal probe. A statement on its website reads: “Following recent media coverage highlighting allegations about the selling tactics within Plan My Funeral, we have set up a helpline for any customers who may have concerns. The allegations outlined in the Mail on Sunday, if proven, have no place within the industry and we condemn them fully. We have launched an immediate internal investigation into those allegations and have suspended our operation until that is completed.”
Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, said: “We’ve seen a crackdown on charities bombarding people with calls so there’s no reason why the funeral planning industry should be immune from that. We should look at stricter controls in this industry to make sure elderly customers are protected.”
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