Glasnevin Trust lashed over extra cost after burials
Glasnevin Trust has agreed to make its prices more transparent to consumers after an investigation by watchdogs.
It's the largest provider of funeral services in Ireland, operating five cemeteries and two crematoria in Dublin, as well as Glasnevin Cemetery Monument Works Ltd (GCMW) which creates and erects headstones.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission said it received a complaint in November 2011 in relation to "alleged anti-competitive practices by Glasnevin Trust".
The commission said that it was alleged that Glasnevin Trust, and its subsidiary GCMW, were engaging in "anti-competitive practices designed to put competing headstone providers at a competitive disadvantage".
After a detailed preliminary assessment, the commission identified a number of concerns and decided in March 2013 to open a formal investigation, it said yesterday.
"In the first instance, there appeared to be a lack of transparency for consumers in terms of the final cost of burial services," the commission said.
"For example, in situations where consumers chose to erect a headstone some months after a burial, as is often the case, they were sometimes surprised to discover that a separate foundation fee was also payable, in addition to the funeral director's costs and the cost of the burial plot and the headstone.
"It was also alleged that Glasnevin Trust was waiving, or reducing this foundation fee if the consumer opted to purchase the headstone from Glasnevin Trust's subsidiary company, GCMW, potentially putting other competing headstone providers at a competitive disadvantage," the commission said in a statement.
It said it had secured agreement from Glasnevin Trust to put a number of remedial measures in place "in order to mitigate anti-competitive practices and ensure increased transparency".
Meanwhile, in a statement Glasnevin Trust said it co-operated fully with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to ensure that "transparency, equality and industry best practice pertain to all of its relationships".
It said it welcomed the commission's recommendations, as they set best practice for the funeral industry.
The trust said that it was happy to implement the recommendations and "looks forward to their implementation at other cemeteries across the country".
In relation to specific points raised in the commission's statement, the trust said it wanted to make a number of observations.
"Glasnevin Trust's policy of charging separate foundation fees for graves is in line with industry practice and it is happy to implement the commission's recommendation to ensure this is highlighted to the public, as well as providing a degree of flexibility as to when these costs need to be paid.
"Funeral directors are now required to confirm to Glasnevin Trust that they have informed their clients that there is a separate cost for grave foundations.
"Glasnevin Trust's policy has been to ensure that all headstone providers comply with the Monumental by-laws pertaining to each of its cemeteries," it said.
Such by-laws have always been applied fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner, and the trust has assured the commission that it will continue to do so, the statement said.
"The commission requested that Glasnevin Trust would, in future, allow all headstone providers to advertise in the trust's promotional material, should they wish, and the trust is happy to facilitate this recommendation," it added.