You’re not daft enough to hand your money over to just anyone promising to deliver the goods after your body’s gone cold. When you’re buying a funeral plan in the UK, you need to be sure that you can trust your funeral director with a few thousand pounds that you’ll never see again.
This is where the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) comes in. They regulate the funeral planning industry and currently cover over 1.5 million pre-paid funeral plans.
It doesn’t work the same as the banking or telecoms regulators that you may know about, though. To help you fully understand the role of the FPA, we’re going to get into:
- Where the Funeral Planning Authority comes from
- The job of the FPA
- What the future holds for regulating funeral plans
What is the Funeral Planning Authority?
Established in 2002, the FPA is an industry body for funeral directors and other companies that sell pre-paid funeral plans. It's a voluntary organisation that monitors the administration of policies, ensures proper conduct, and works to guarantee funeral plans if the provider goes bust.
The organisation doesn’t have any government mandate – that is, there aren’t any laws that give the FPA power. Instead, power comes from members wanting to be members and offer their customers some security with their funeral plan.
For any person or organisation to become a member, they must submit a range of documentation and speak with the chief executive. The details that are needed include:
- Application forms
- Detailed information about their business model
- Trust Deeds
- Insurance agreements
- Bank accounts
- Actuarial valuations
- Investment details
- Funeral plan literature
Around 95% of all funeral plans sold in the UK are covered under the FPA, so they may not have any legal status, but they’re valuable to the industry.
What does the Funeral Planning Authority do?
The FPA does a few different things, all aimed at helping you as the consumer get a secure and stable plan for your big send-off. The functions of the authority are all there for consumer confidence and span a range of issues.
Tracing a plan
Can’t remember all the stuff you did with a financial planner years ago? Sure your recently departed buddy spoke of a funeral plan but can’t find the paperwork?
The FPA has a tracing scheme that allows you to enter your or someone else's details and see if a plan exists. They don't have a database; instead, they send the details to all their members to check if what you're looking for sits on their books.
Fill in their online form and wait to be contacted by a funeral plan company. Unfortunately, there aren't any guaranteed timeframes, and if nothing is found, you won't hear anything.
Protecting your money
Under the code of conduct, all funeral plans regulated by the FPA must do one of two things with your cash:
- Have the money held in trust. There are rules about who can be trustees, and the details are regularly audited.
- Take out a whole life assurance policy on you to ensure that enough money will be there to cover the funeral you've paid for.
Pledge to Customers
Under the FPA’s Pledge to Customers, “All Plan Providers shall co-operate… [In] the event of the insolvency of a Plan Provider, the other Plan Providers will examine ways in which the FPA might assist in arranging delivery of the funeral of the customers of the insolvent Plan Provider.”
It's not a cast-iron guarantee that your funeral plan will be honoured if the company you bought with goes bust, but it'll serve the reputation of funeral companies to help out when something goes wrong.
Seemingly taking cues from how banking and telecoms regulators work, the FPA gives you recourse if anything goes wrong. Members have to let you know how to make a complaint and accept complaints in any reasonable form. They have a maximum of eight weeks to respond.
The authority will also go through conciliation or arbitration if you’re not happy that your complaint has been resolved. Plan providers are also compelled to work with organisations that might be helping you get to the bottom of the problem.
What’s changing with regulations of pre-paid funeral plans?
Unless you're in the funeral business, you probably don't know a whole lot about the changing regulation when buying funerals and funeral plans upfront. Things will be changing, and it applies to the pre-paid plans you've already been savvy enough to invest in, too.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) deal with all things financial and regulatory. They're bringing funeral plans under their watchful gaze in July 2022. Covering both funeral providers and the people or companies that sell the plans, too, everyone in the industry needs to register ahead of time.
Things like what can be said when you're chatting about a plan, the information you'll be given before buying, and how your money is held once you sign up will likely all be covered. The details are still being hammered out – expect to see details by the second half of 2021.
What’s the role of the Funeral Planning Authority?
The FPA is an industry body, letting funeral plan providers self-regulate and hold their industry to account. How it’s going to fit into the new regulatory system that the FCA are bringing in remains to be seen.
It's modelled much of its processes and language on current official regulators, so there's potential for it to be the framework for the future. That's just our guess, though; the jury's still out on exactly how the new regulators will get to grips with the funeral industry.
For now, if you need to track down a funeral plan you or someone else half remembers, want to be sure the money you hand over is protected, or make a complaint about a funeral plan, the FPA are the folks to go to.