Nov 10, 2020

Major funeral home called out for not being upfront with grieving families about pricing

One of Australia’s largest funeral homes has been labelled ‘shonky’ for not being open and honest with grieving families about the prices it charges for its services.

Choice’s annual Shonky Awards have called out some of Australia’s biggest names for unclear pricing and questionable sales tactics. 

The consumer advocacy group hosts the awards each year, putting brands they say fail to offer Australian consumers a fair deal into the firing line.

One of the bigger brands who this year has been named and shamed is InvoCare funerals. 

Alan Kirkland, CEO of Choice, said calling out brands and products was an important part of holding people accountable for allegedly taking advantage of vulnerable Australians. 

“InvoCare — the company behind White Lady Funerals and Simplicity Funerals — has done everything it can to avoid being upfront with grieving families about cost,” he said.

InvoCare, which is responsible for nearly 40 brands, makes up a major part of the Australian funeral industry. According to Choice, in 2019 a mystery shopper exercise found that some of their businesses would not provide itemised lists of funeral expenses, and were found to be widely inconsistent with quotes for the same services. 

An earlier investigation into funeral costs resulted in funeral homes being required to provide mandatory information about pricing in some states and territories, but not others.  

“InvoCare provides prices for NSW and ACT funerals on its website, but doesn’t provide grieving people in other states with the same information,” Mr Kirkland said.

In response to receiving this award, a spokesperson from InvoCare said upfront funeral pricing was being implemented nationally as part of the company’s “commitment to industry best practice.” The spokesperson went on to say InvoCare “strongly supports transparency in pricing and was the first group to meet new industry standards”.

Older Australians targeted by unscrupulous bed sellers

It’s not just funeral homes that have been called out. Bed supplier Revitalife has also been put in the spotlight for targeting older people in their homes, and pressuring them to purchase incredibly expensive beds and mattresses, sometimes to the value of more than $7000. 

Following a number of tips offs, Choice’s investigation found Revitalife was sending salespeople to the homes of older people, many of whom had health concerns, with the intention of persuading these vulnerable people to buy expensive products they did not need.

“This company promises to help customers with their health needs but then sells them expensive beds with dubious health claims,” said Mr Kirkland. 

“We believe Revitalife has breached the Australian consumer law by engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct.”

Choice has contacted the ACCC regarding these claims. 

A law firm acting for Revitalife contacted Choice in response to these allegations, saying that they had “thousands of positive testimonials of satisfied customers”.

“Revitalife strongly denies any statement that implies it leads its customers into uniformed purchasing decisions,” they said. 

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