Welcome to the latest newsletter from the Funeral Planning Authority. This is the first newsletter of 2018 and our plans for the year are well underway. In this newsletter we look at what 2018 will hold, how the industry is developing and hot topics for your businesses and the industry.
2018 – Our Plan
Whilst we engage you with our registered providers and stakeholders on a regular basis we thought we should update you on our aims and objectives for 2018. Following the significant changes we made in 2017 to our structure, we continue to focus on ensuring our regulatory model is robust and a strong example of how self-regulation works.
As a part of this we are currently reviewing out Rules and Code of Practice to ensure they are sufficiently encompassing, providing consumers with the protection they need, without placing such a heavy regulatory burden that we unnecessarily reduce competition in the market. This review process and achieving that balance will be a key focus for 2018.
In parallel we will be increasing our communications efforts to educate consumers and others involved in the market about our role and why they should be dealing with FPA registered providers. Continued support with conveying this message through your customer communication, websites and sales teams would be much appreciated.
2017 Plan Sales
A total of 207,700 plans were sold by registered providers in 2017, a small drop from 210,700 in 2016.
The flattening in sales figures is primarily attributable to a reduction in sales from third party sellers. This follows enhanced guidance given by the Funeral Planning Authority regarding provider’s responsibilities for the sales practices of third parties. In contrast, direct sales and sales through funeral directors have increased as providers respond to growing consumer demand and continue to expand the market.
Graeme McAusland, CEO of the Funeral Planning Authority comments, ‘Our role is to protect consumer’s interest and ensure that registered providers and the third parties they work with are behaving in a way that delivers the best outcomes for consumers.
‘We regularly review our Rules and Code of Practice that registered providers have to adhere to, aligning them with changes in the marketplace. We believe that the levelling of plan sales in 2017 is, at least in part, attributable to a renewed focus from us on third party sales. During which we outlined how providers should be supervising those selling on their behalf and guaranteeing that they were also upholding the high standards that we expect.’
General Data Protection Regulations – Countdown to Compliance
Last year we flagged the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which will come into force in the UK on 25th May 2018. These Regulations enhance the rights of data subjects to know how, why and how long their personal data will be held and how the personal data will be secured.
As data processors, Plan Providers, will need to ensure they can document their policies and processes, including, how to handle data subject requests, deal with breach reporting, purging personal data which is out of date and deleting or amending personal data at the request of a data subject.
Where Plan Providers pass personal data to or have it processed by third parties, (insurance companies, funeral directors, payment processing suppliers, the FPA under our complaint handling procedures etc) this will need to be made clear to customers. Where third parties generate leads or introductions, the Plan Provider will need to make sure any personal data they receive has been collected with the appropriate consents in place for their use of that personal data.
We are assuming that at this stage, all Plan Providers have already considered what they need to do to be ready of the new Regulations, that they will have reviewed their third party agreements/ arrangements for GDPR compliance and will working towards remediating any gaps they have identified to ensure compliance ahead of 25th May 2018. The Compliance Committee will be requesting information about GDPR readiness from each Plan Provider leading up to the ‘go live date’ in May.
Fairer Finance Update
The Fairer Finance campaign to increase regulation in the pre-paid funeral sector continues and they have secured funding from some registered providers to extend their research. We also believe that they see FCA regulation as a ‘solution’ and will continue to campaign along these lines – however they have yet to define the type of FCA regulation they are campaigning for.
Fairer Finance are also beginning to articulate that they believe the Funeral Planning Authority has insufficient resources to carry out our role. We disagree with that view and believe Fairer Finance are misguided in their understanding of what extending regulation in this market might mean.
We continue our dialogue with them to ensure they understand the full extent of the work we undertake with providers and communicating our role to consumers. If you wish to talk to us about their campaign, we would welcome that discussion.
FPA & Funerals In The News
In a bid to pique consumer interest and raise awareness of the FPA we’ve launched research, which focuses on what prompts consumers to take action over planning both the practicalities and financial aspects of their funeral. It revealed that the average Brit first considers their funeral at age 51-years-old and that for the significant majority it’s prompted by the death of a parent. The story was picked up by The Daily Telegraph, Moneywise, Moneyfacts and Funeral Service Times.
You might have also seen that national media covered the wider funeral industry quite regularly during January. Pieces around a personal experience of funeral costs, the Swedish trend for funeral planning and funeral entrepreneurs caught our eye.