Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Funeral fee would fund regulator for directors

An extra set fee on funerals is being proposed to help create a regulatory body to monitor the professional conduct of funeral directors. 

The €25 fee is based on a Canadian model and would amount to a fund of nearly €750,000 annually.

It was proposed by Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, chairwoman of the national council on the end of life as part of an international funeral director convention held in Dublin this weekend.

"Funeral directors are obliged to be transparent and reliable at such a sensitive time for the families of the deceased. This regulatory body would ensure that this onerous task would not be handed to the amateurs," said Mrs Justice McGuinness.

She said the small fee would allow a regulatory body to be set up easily and would not contravene the government’s employment embargo in the public service.

Mrs Justice McGuinness said the most expensive part of a funeral bill was the grave plot, of which the capital was most costly.

Meanwhile, Gus Nichols, spokesman for the Irish Association of Funeral Directors, said plot prices were steadily rising across the country and warned that families felt they had no option but to pay the increasing costs.

A single grave plot in Co Dublin has risen 50% in price to €1,800 while a plot in Co Galway rose by €165 in 18 months.

Mr Nichols said funeral directors’ costs have dropped in recent years due to competition, but the prices of local authority-owned graves were steadily rising.

"With funerals, what you pay for is what you get. However, rising grave prices are making even the cheapest planned funerals as expensive as ever," he said.

"It is a case of inelastic goods. No matter what the costs, local authorities know that people will pay. Families will take the charges because they feel they have to."

He said the average cost of a funeral nationwide was €4,500 to €5,000.

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