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Better protection needed for consumers of funeral services

I welcome the findings and recommendations by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) on the online travel-booking sector in Singapore.

Funeral companies often advertise a general price for bereavement packages, but this can be misleading, the writer argues.

Funeral companies often advertise a general price for bereavement packages, but this can be misleading, the writer argues.

I welcome the findings and recommendations by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) on the online travel-booking sector in Singapore.

These recent moves to boost price transparency are a step in the right direction. They should be accompanied by robust penalties, such as fines for breaches of consumer law and greater enforcement powers. 

More protection is also needed for consumers of funeral services and products.

As Singapore continues to confront demographic changes in the next decade, it is important for the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) to protect the interests of bereaved families.

We often see funeral operators make known, through their website, brochures or an advertising sticker on their corporate vehicles, a general price for a funeral package.

This can be misleading, as the final sum for the services provided is often substantially higher than this estimate given to the consumer — infringing Clause 8 under the Second Schedule of the CPFTA.

Under Section 4 of the Act, it is an unfair practice for a supplier to take advantage of a consumer if the supplier knows or ought reasonably to know that the consumer is not in a position to protect his or her own interests, or is not reasonably able to understand the transaction or any matter related to it.

During bereavement, families are often too grief-stricken or confused to make considered decisions. Thus they may not be able to best protect their interests, especially when the purchase of funeral services is not a daily transaction. The consumer is likely to have a poor grasp of information put forth by operators.

An independent consumer body for the funeral profession should be set up to serve as an important resource for information, reviews and industry monitoring.

There should also be greater efforts by funeral operators to itemise and educate the public about funeral costs. 

The CCCS should do a study of the funeral sector to help the public understand how prices are set, and better protect consumers from fly-by-night operators as well as those who may overprice services.

The purchase of funeral services and products is often a major financial outlay on the part of bereaved families. It is important that every cent spent is well accounted for.  

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore consumer protection Funeral costs

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