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Britain proposes formal investigation into funerals market, citing high prices

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(Reuters) – Britain on Thursday proposed a formal investigation into the funerals market, saying it was concerned that increasing prices for funeral services were ripping off grieving families.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said its initial market study, launched six months ago, revealed problems with the market that have led to above inflation price rises for well over a decade – both for funeral director services and crematoria services.

CMA also said it found that larger chains in particular have consistently hiked prices year-on-year and while some of them have now introduced lower cost funeral options, it does not go far enough to make up for years of above inflation price hikes.

London-listed Dignity Plc <DTY.L> and Co-operative Group Ltd <42TE.L>, two of the larger providers of funeral services in the country, have recently cut prices.

Dignity and Co-Operative’s Funeralcare business were not immediately available for a comment. Dignity shares were down 14 percent at 860 pence in early trading.

Britons generally spend between 3,000 pounds and 5,000 pounds organising a funeral, and the price of the essential elements has increased by more than two-thirds in the last 10 years, almost three times the rate of inflation, CMA said.

The scale of these price rises does not currently appear to be justified by cost increases or quality improvements, the regulator added.

“People mourning the loss of a loved one are extremely vulnerable and at risk of being exploited. We need to make sure that they are protected at such an emotional time, and we’re very concerned about the substantial increases in funeral prices over the past decade,” CMA’s Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said.

CMA said it would be consulting on the potential market investigation and welcome any views on the issues identified in its report by Jan 4.

(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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