Watchdog cracks down on prices of funeral services at Glasnevin Cemetery
The charitable body which controls Ireland's most historic cemetery has been forced to clear up its prices for funeral services after an investigation by watchdogs.
Glasnevin Trust, the largest provider of funeral services in the country and operator of four graveyards and two crematoria in Dublin, has been told to make the costs of plots, burials and erecting headstones more transparent for bereaved families.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission also ordered the charity not to bar other headstone providers from advertising their services and to treat them equally when it comes to waiting times for permits, foundations and access to the cemetery.
"Funeral-related services are, by their nature, purchases that consumers have to make in the most difficult and stressful circumstances," the watchdog said.
"In this situation, they are often unclear about exactly what they need to do and depend on a service provider, such as a funeral director or provider of cemetery services, to guide them through the process. As such, it is a sector in which transparency and compliance with competition and consumer protection law are of paramount importance."
The watchdog launched an inquiry in March 2013 after complaints about the practices by the trust, which oversees the upkeep of Glasnevin Cemetery and some of the most historically important plots in the country.
Glasnevin Trust, also known as the Dublin Cemeteries Committee, also runs the museum and operates Glasnevin Florists and Glasnevin Cemetery Monument Works, which creates and erects headstones.
It alleged the trust and the headstone business were putting other headstone providers at a competitive disadvantage.
The commission found an apparent lack of transparency on final costs of burials including a "surprising" additional cost of laying foundations to erect a headstone on top of the funeral director's fees, the price of the burial plot and the headstone itself.
The complaint alleged Glasnevin Trust was waiving or discounting the fee if a bereaved family bought the headstone from its own monuments business and that competing firms were facing delays in getting foundations laid and access to cemeteries and difficulties in promoting their work.
The commission said this potentially put them at a competitive disadvantage.
It said Glasnevin Trust agreed to make several changes to prevent anti-competitive practices and ensure increased transparency for bereaved families.
The charity will make it easier for consumers to find a price list for burial plots and foundation fees on its website and in its offices while it will also ensure funeral directors explain the additional costs.
"Critically, Glasnevin Trust has also agreed to inform consumers explicitly that foundation fees are not included in the purchase price of a burial plot and will also provide flexibility to consumers in terms of when these fees are payable," the commission said.
Elsewhere, the trust will also treat competing headstone providers in an equal and non-discriminatory way when it comes to waiting times for permits and foundations, access to cemeteries and regulatory requirements and advertising in promotional brochures.
The commission said Glasnevin Trust co-operated fully and in a timely manner throughout the investigation.